GOP Members Of House Intel Panel Conclude There Was No Collusion With Russia

Mar 12, 2018
Originally published on March 12, 2018 4:55 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee say they have found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election. Committee Republicans say they agree with intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the election, but they don't agree that Russia favored President Trump. This does not mean the Russia investigations are over - far from it. Committee Republicans will turn over a draft report to Democrats for review and comment. And the special counsel has charged at least four Trump associates with criminal charges, and they expand their investigation.

NPR's Ryan Lucas joins us now with more. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: How did the committee come to this conclusion?

LUCAS: Well, the House Intelligence Committee started its investigation about a year ago. And they say that they've interviewed more than 70 people as part of this probe. They've reviewed thousands upon thousands of pages of documents. But this is an investigation that has become very partisan. The Republicans say that they came to the conclusion, as you said, that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and, again, that they disagree with the intelligence agencies that Russia favored Trump. The Republican leading the committee's work, Michael Conaway - he's from Texas - says that they found inappropriate meetings, they found bad judgment, but nothing beyond that. So this of course is going to cause a lot of consternation among Democrats. But this is very much a conclusion that Republicans have come to and not their Democratic colleagues on the committee.

SHAPIRO: I'm also curious how this plays into special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Of course his team is looking not only into collusion but also whether President Trump and his associates obstructed justice trying to block the investigation.

LUCAS: Well, Mueller's investigation has always been on a kind of different parallel track. It's a criminal investigation. They're looking at things that - as you noted that the committee itself isn't looking into. And Mueller's investigation has its own powers. It can subpoena records on its own. This is something that Democrats have complained about with the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. So the Republican and the House Intelligence Committee coming to a conclusion of its investigation doesn't really play into Mueller's investigation at all. It certainly is going to continue. And we'll see where that investigation goes.

SHAPIRO: OK, so those are two investigations - the House Intelligence Committee and Robert Mueller's. Are there others?

LUCAS: The other big investigation on the Hill of course is the Senate Intelligence Committee, and that remains on track. The two senators in charge of that, Mark Warner of Virginia and Richard Burr of North Carolina, have really tried to keep a bipartisan spirit in that investigation. They've succeeded for the most part. They have witnesses that they're still talking to. They are still finding more people as they go through more documents, more people that they want to talk to. They're still bringing those people in. So that investigation does continue. And, you know, speaking to members of that committee, it doesn't look like that one is going to wrap up anytime soon.

SHAPIRO: And as you said, this House Intelligence Committee has become so partisan and politicized. What role do the Democrats on that committee play now?

LUCAS: Well, as you mentioned, they are going to see the GOP draft report tomorrow. Already, however, the top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, he's put out a statement saying that Republicans are more interested in protecting the president than they are protecting the country. He also says that the Republicans have been unwilling to follow the facts. They've been unwilling to compel witnesses who have been what he would basically describe as intransigent, as folks who have not wanted to answer basic questions that the committee has. Schiff even says that as more information comes out via Mueller's investigation, via reporters and the Senate Intelligence Committee - that Republicans are going to rue the day that they wrap this investigation up early.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.