WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Intelligence Committee Republicans said on Monday the panel had finished investigating Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, and found no collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow’s efforts to influence the vote.
The committee Republicans said they agreed that Russia sought to influence the election by spreading propaganda and false news reports via social media. However, they disputed the findings of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation that Moscow sought to aid Trump, who won a surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“We’re through with interview phase. We’re now in the report drafting phase,” Republican Representative Mike Conaway, who has led the panel’s investigation for the past year, told Reuters.
Representative Adam Schiff, the top committee Democrat, strongly disagreed, and blasted the announcement as a premature shutdown.
The House investigation, one of three main congressional probes of Russia and the 2016 investigation, and possible collusion or obstruction of justice by Trump or his aides, has been marred for months by partisan wrangling, including the release of rival Republican and Democratic memos related to the probe.
The panel’s chairman, Republican Representative Devin Nunes, recused himself from the investigation last year amid reports he had a secret meeting at the White House. Nunes denied wrongdoing.
“While the Majority members of our committee have indicated for some time that they have been under great pressure to end the investigation, it is nonetheless another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch,” Schiff said in a statement.
Conaway rejected that charge.
Republican members of the House of Representatives committee had been saying for weeks they were near the end of the interview phase of the probe.
Democrats have accused committee Republicans of shirking the investigation in order to protect the Republican president and his associates, some of whom have pleaded guilty to charges including lying to investigators and conspiring against the United States.
Trump has repeatedly denied collusion between his campaign and Russia. Russia denies meddling in the 2016 U.S. campaign.
Schiff said evidence was “clear and overwhelming” that U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment was correct that Russia sought to boost Trump, hurt his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and sow discord.
“On a whole host of investigative threads, our work is fundamentally incomplete, some issues partially investigated, others, like that involving credible allegations of Russian money laundering, remain barely touched,” Schiff said.
Conaway accused Democrats of seeking to prolong the probe ahead of the mid-term elections. The Republicans’ current control of both houses of Congress is up for grabs in the November vote.
“There’s opportunity for this investigation to go on forever if in fact you don’t want to come to any conclusions… if you want to make hay in the run up to the election,” Conaway said in a telephone interview.
The House Republicans’ announcement shifts attention across the Capitol to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been conducting its own investigation. Republicans and Democrats have both described that probe as far less partisan than the House’s.
Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller is also conducting an investigation.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)