Republican-led Senate Panel Reinforces Russian Interference

Image Courtesy of CNN

By: Jeremy Perillo

A new bipartisan report released by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee affirms that Russia did indeed interfere with the 2016 election to help President Donald Trump win the White House. The report comes as Trump’s allies continue to protest any accusations against Trump, his allies, or his campaign when it comes to Russian interference.

The nearly one thousand-page report signals the end of the committee’s three-year probe into election meddling by the Russians. One of the concerns made by senators was that especially given the 2020 election is less than eighty days away, interference, particularly from the Russians, is nearly a guarantee for the upcoming election.

The committee investigation was able to go beyond what Robert Mueller’s report outlined since Mueller and his team was limited to calls of criminality outlined in the special counsel probe. Mueller concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping” and apparent, but found no criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

The key findings from this new report offer more details and a better perspective on Russian interference during the last election. One of those findings delves further into former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his connections with a Russian intelligence officer. The committee speculates that that Russian intelligence officer may have been connected to the 2016 Russian hacking operation. Overall, the committee held Manafort’s role in the campaign “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

The report also discussed how Trump and senior campaign officials sought information on Wikileaks’ email dumps through Roger Stone, and that Trump had indeed discussed Wikileaks with Stone, despite telling the special counsel otherwise.

The committee found that the information gained from the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian nationals “was part of a broader influence operation” by the Kremlin, and made clear to note that there was no evidence that the Trump campaign knew of that. The Russian nationals had significant connections and ties to the Russian government and Russian intelligence. 

Given the drama surrounding these various high-profile events with the Trump campaign, another aspect the report touches on how various Russian-government actors continued to spread misinformation on Russian election interference, into 2020. The report specifically names Manafort and his Russian connection as individuals who promoted the narrative that Ukraine interfered with the election, rather than Russia.

While the committee’s report, and various other government investigations, have cleared Trump or his campaign from colluding with the Russians, the report shows the exhaustive extent Russia took to influence the results of the 2016 election. 

“We can say, without any hesitation, that the Committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election,” said Senator Marco Rubio, the committee’s acting chairman. “What the Committee did find, however, is very troubling. We found irrefutable evidence of Russian meddling.”

“I encourage all Americans to carefully review the documented evidence of the unprecedented and massive intervention campaign waged on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump by Russians and their operatives and to reach their own independent conclusions,” said Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s Ranking Member.

The responses show a divide in how both sides are positioning this report. Republicans find this report as another exoneration of the Trump campaign, as there was no evidence of collusion. Democrats seem to disregard that fact, and would rather focus on the appalling efforts by the Russians to influence the Trump campaign.

There is little doubt that government investigations will quickly reveal unprecedented foreign interference in the election, unfortunately confirming the fears of many American voters throughout this election cycle. This report will be one of many reviewed as the government acts on the inevitable perversion of American democracy.

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