Republicans declare House's Russia probe over despite objections

WASHINGTON • Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee said on Monday that the panel had finished investigating Russia and the 2016 US election, and found no collusion between United States President Donald Trump's campaign and Moscow's efforts to influence the vote.

The committee's 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 Mr Trump, who won a surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"We are through with interview phase. We are now in the report-drafting phase," Republican Representative Mike Conaway, who has led the panel's investigation for the past year, said.

But 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 election, and the possible collusion or obstruction of justice by Mr 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 House Intelligence Committee's chairman, Republican Representative Devin Nunes, recused himself from the investigation last year amid reports he had a secret meeting at the White House. Mr Nunes denied wrongdoing.

The House Republicans made their announcement even as Mr Robert Mueller, the US special counsel for the Russia probe, seems to be stepping up his investigation.

Last week, former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg spent six hours before a grand jury called by Mr Mueller, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty to criminal charges.

"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," Mr Schiff said in a statement.

Mr Conaway rejected that charge.

Mr Trump took to Twitter to note the announcement, typing in all capital letters that the House committee had found no evidence of collusion or coordination after a 14-month-long "in-depth investigation."

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.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Republicans declare House's Russia probe over despite objections'. Print Edition | Subscribe