WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee backed the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, ultimately intending to help Donald Trump win.
"The committee concurs with intelligence and open-source assessments that this influence campaign was approved by President Putin," the panel said Tuesday in a report that endorsed as "sound" the intelligence findings issued in January 2017.
"The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions," said a statement from Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the panel's chairman.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the panel thoroughly reviewed all aspects of the intelligence agencies' work leading up to its assessment.
"The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary [Hillary] Clinton and to help Donald Trump," Warner said.
The January 2017 intelligence assessment said Russian activities in the run-up to the presidential election represented a "significant escalation" in a long history of Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, the committee said.
The intelligence agencies found that Russians had engaged in cyber-espionage and distributed messages through Russian-controlled propaganda outlets to undermine public faith in the democratic process, "denigrate" Clinton and develop a "clear preference" for Trump.
The committee said it perused thousands of pages of documents and conducted interviews with relevant parties that helped the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency compile its review about Russian meddling.
Officials relied on "public Russian leadership commentary, Russian state media reports, public examples of where Russian interests would have aligned with candidates' policy statements, and a body of intelligence reporting," the Senate report said.
The committee's statement is not a surprise -- Burr and Warner have both made previous statements supporting the intelligence community's assessment. But the strong endorsement nonetheless marks a significant milestone in the continued debate over Russia's role in the 2016 campaign.
The report puts the panel at odds with Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who issued their own report this year, and the president, who has continued to question the intelligence agencies' assessment.
"Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!" Trump tweeted on June 28, then questioned whether law enforcement had adequately investigated the issue. "So many questions, so much corruption!"
The Senate committee's bipartisan conclusion comes as Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland.
Putin last week met with Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, and told him that there had been no interference "by the Russian state," Bolton said in a Fox News interview over the weekend.
The Senate committee, however, said the scope of Russian interference has only become clearer in the years since the campaign.
"Further details have come to light that bolster the assessment," the report said.
The Senate report diverges from the one released in March by House Intelligence Committee Republicans, who said officials were mistaken to conclude that Moscow wanted Trump to win. The House Republicans' report also emphasized the lack of public evidence that Trump's allies conspired with Russians, something that remains under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Democrats on the House panel sharply disagreed, saying the Republican-controlled panel had not interviewed enough witnesses nor gathered enough evidence to make a definitive assessment.
House Republicans have contended that the Russia investigation went awry well before Mueller's appointment because it depended on an anti-Trump dossier gathered by former British spy Christopher Steele and financed by Democrats and Clinton's campaign.
But the Senate report said the intelligence community's assessment of Russian interference didn't rely on the dossier because it contained unverified information.
"All individuals the committee interviewed verified that the dossier did not in any way inform the analysis," the panel said.
The Senate Intelligence panel has continued its investigation of whether anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with Russia's efforts. Burr has said he hopes to wrap up interviews this month and begin drafting a final report in August.
The Senate report also said there were no signs that President Barack Obama's administration improperly tried to interfere with intelligence agencies' analysis.
"The Committee heard consistently that analysts were under no politically motivated pressure to reach any conclusions," the report said.
The report is the latest example of how the Senate Intelligence Committee has diverged from its House counterpart.
The House Intelligence Committee has been split along partisan lines, releasing Republican and Democratic versions of various reports.
The House panel's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has dedicated significant time to examining how the Justice Department has handled the Russian probe.
Meanwhile, the Senate committee has maintained bipartisan cooperation and expressed little interest in Nunes' theories about allegations of investigator misconduct.
Information for this article was contributed by Chris Megerian of the Los Angeles Times; by Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press; and by Steven T. Dennis and Billy House of Bloomberg News.
This Oct. 24, 2017, file photo shows Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington.
A Section on 07/04/2018
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