By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday supports three U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Republican-led committee’s finding suggests the panel continues to conduct a bipartisan inquiry into the issue amid political rancor between Republicans and Democrats on allegations that Moscow interfered in the election.
“As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the (Intelligence Community Assessment’s) findings were accurate and on point,” said committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat.
“The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton (Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton) and to help Donald Trump,” Warner said.
Separate from congressional inquiries, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any Republican Trump’s election campaign members coordinated with Moscow officials.
Neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which reported the intelligence agencies’ findings in January 2017, nor the Senate committee has concluded that Trump’s campaign or aides colluded with Russia.
The committee is still investigating any possible collusion, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, officials said.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, asked by reporters on Tuesday about the Senate panel’s report while traveling with Trump on Air Force One to West Virginia, said: “The president has been very clear and has said it many times that he feels the Russians meddled in the election.”
The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, dominated by Republicans sympathetic to Trump, found no conclusive evidence proving collusion. But House panel Republicans, in a report on April 27, did say that Russia ran an information warfare campaign to disrupt the election.
The Kremlin denies meddling and Trump denies collusion. On June 28, Trump said on Twitter that “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling on Our Election!”
The following day, however, he told reporters that he planned to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet on July 16 in Helsinki.
According to public records and congressional officials, the Senate Intelligence Committee report is the latest of four election-related inquiries on which the panel’s Republicans and Democrats continue to cooperate.
Earlier, the committee held a public hearing and issued a report on the security of U.S. election systems, on which there was no partisan dissent.
Committee Democrats also are collaborating with Republicans on an inquiry that is likely to cite former President Barack Obama and his administration for moving too slowly to probe evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Committee Democrats and Republicans also are working together on an examination of the role social media played in influencing U.S. voters, and may hold hearings on that issue.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; additional reporting by Jim Oliphant; editing by John Walcott and Grant McCool)