US House Republicans vote to release Russia report, ending probe

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said the report was based on more than 70 witness interviews and the collection of more than 300,000 documents.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said the report was based on more than 70 witness interviews and the collection of more than 300,000 documents. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US House Intelligence Committee voted on Thursday (March 22) to release a Republican report on the panel's Russia probe, the leader of the investigation said, a decision that formally ends its examination of Russia and the 2016 US election.

The Republican report found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian interference. It also disagreed with intelligence agencies' findings that Moscow sought to boost Trump's chances of being elected.

Moscow denies meddling in the US campaign.

Committee Democrats strongly disputed that finding and said they will continue to investigate and, eventually, release their own report.

The vote to release the report was along party lines.

Representative Adam Schiff, the panel's top Democrat, said Republicans had declined every Democratic motion during their business meeting, including requests to subpoena witnesses who refused to answer questions, and hold an open hearing with chief executives from technical companies, including Facebook Inc's Mark Zuckerberg.

"The (Republican) majority was not interested in conducting any further investigation, even when the flaws in what we have done so far have become so apparent in the course of the last week," Schiff told reporters.

The committee's Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, said the report was based on more than 70 witness interviews and the collection of more than 300,000 documents. He said in a statement it "will include minority views if the minority submits them."

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Reports have emerged from whistleblower Christopher Wylie this week that British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed Facebook users' information to build profiles on American voters later used to help elect Trump.

Hidden camera footage on British television showed a company official criticising the House committee's interview.

Wylie has agreed to talk to committee Democrats.

A summary of report findings concluded Russia conducted cyber attacks on US political institutions, using social media to undermine the electoral process.

It acknowledged contacts between Trump associates and Russians, including Russian efforts to set up a "back channel" to communicate after Trump's election, but said it had not found evidence of collusion.

The summary did recommend steps to crack down on intelligence agency leaks, and raised questions about charges facing Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The House panel's investigation of how Russia might have sought to influence the 2016 US election, and whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow has been marked by partisan disagreements for months.

Earlier this year, Intelligence Republicans and Democrats released dueling memos about the probe. Nunes was recused for months after a late-night visit to the White House raised questions about improper communications with Trump associates.

In contrast, the Senate Intelligence Committee released bipartisan recommendations on how to improve election security this week and is continuing its investigation, as is Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The probes have shadowed Trump's presidency, and the president has repeatedly denounced them, and Mueller, leading to concerns he might fire the special counsel.