Senate report details Russia’s efforts to meddle in 2016, ties to Trump associates

Putin "ordered" the hack and release of Democratic emails, the report says.

August 18, 2020, 3:43 PM

A new bipartisan report released by a Senate panel Tuesday outlines perhaps the most detailed accounting to date of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election while accusing the White House and others close to President Donald Trump of refusing to cooperate with an investigation into whether the president’s campaign simply benefited or sought to aid Russia’s efforts.

The nearly-1,000 page report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, its fifth and final examination of a years-long effort to probe Russian meddling in 2016, describes several episodes in which Trump and members of his campaign were keen to accept Russia’s help -- and in some instances goes further than even former special counsel Robert Mueller in detailing ties between the campaign and Russian individuals.

However, like Mueller’s report released last year, the Senate committee does not allege any criminal conspiracy between Trump or members of his campaign and Russia.

And in agreement with the intelligence community’s 2017 assessment on Russia’s interference, the report states definitively that Russian President Vladimir Putin "ordered the Russian effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president."

While the report was bipartisan in nature, upon its release both Republicans and Democrats quickly split in their determination of what the committee’s key findings were.

An index authored by Democrats on the committee argued the report "unambiguously shows that members of the Trump Campaign cooperated with Russian efforts to get Trump elected." The committee’s Republicans, on the other hand, said in a separate statement that "after more than three years of investigation by this Committee, we can now say with no doubt, there was no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A significant new revelation from the report found that "some evidence suggests" a Russian intelligence officer whom former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort provided campaign polling data to in 2016 may have been directly connected to Russia’s hacking and subsequent release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

PHOTO: Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, June 15, 2018.
Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, June 15, 2018.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Previously, Mueller had identified the Russian individual, Konstantin Kilimnik, as someone who the FBI assessed had "ties to Russian intelligence," not an agent. The Senate’s report also goes further than Mueller in suggesting the "possibility of Manafort’s potential connection" to Russia’s hack and leak operations.

Indeed, the report describes Manafort bluntly as having "represented a grave counterintelligence threat" to Trump’s campaign.

"The Committee found that Manafort's presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign," the report says.

The report also delved into the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Manafort and individuals with ties to the Russian government who at the time were promising "dirt" on Clinton.

"The Committee found that it was the intent of the Campaign participants in the meeting, particularly Donald Trump Jr., to receive derogatory information that would be of benefit to the Campaign from a source known, at least by Trump Jr., to have connections to the Russian government," the report says, while noting the information on Clinton was never eventually delivered.

The Trump campaign’s "embrace" of WikiLeaks' disclosures of Democratic emails hacked by Russian operatives also takes up a significant portion of the report, in particular Trump ally Roger Stone’s coordination with Wikileaks at a time when he was still in contact with Trump and members of his campaign.

The committee said it found reason to doubt Trump’s written answers to Mueller in which he stated he had "no recollection" of discussing Wikileaks with Stone.

"Despite Trump’s recollection, the Committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone’s access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions," the report says.

Trump publicly praised Stone for months as he refused to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation and last month commuted Stone’s 40-month sentence days before he was set to report to prison for his conviction on seven counts of lying to investigators, witness tampering and obstruction of Congress.

The committee’s report notes repeated instances in which either the White House or associates of Trump declined to cooperate or, in certain cases, may have sought to obstruct the committee’s investigation.

"The committee did not anticipate… the multitude of novel and unprecedented executive privilege claims" from the White House "on behalf of members of President-elect Trump’s Transition Team and the transition itself," the report says, adding the committee "was surprised by these assertions because they were made inconsistently and because they have no basis in law."

The committee also notes that after Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen produced documents for their investigation they "became concerned that multiple witnesses and/or their counsel could have been involved in or aware" of Cohen’s efforts to obstruct their investigation.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress about Trump’s later-aborted efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

"Indeed, at least two witnesses (Donald Trump Jr. and Felix Sater) could have known that Cohen's statement falsely represented material facts about negotiations over a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow," the report says. "Further, Cohen told the Committee that following his initial testimony, he received a phone call from [Trump’s personal attorney Jay] Sekulow, who told him that Trump "heard that you did great, and don't worry, everything's going to be fine. He loves ya.""

The report’s release comes amid an increasingly aggressive push by Trump and many of his allies to undermine the legitimacy of the Russia investigation.

Trump has repeatedly amplified baseless allegations that his campaign was "spied" upon in 2016 by the Obama Administration, pointing to the issues with how the FBI handled surveillance of Carter Page, a former aide to Trump’s campaign, and their use of a dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele to receive authorization for the surveillance from a federal court.

PHOTO: Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 Presidential Election Campaign, is interviewed on "The David Webb Show" in New York, Jan. 14.
Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 Presidential Election Campaign, is interviewed on "The David Webb Show" in New York, Jan. 14, 2020.
Slaven Vlasic/SiriusXM via Getty Images, FILE

The committee’s report, however, spends considerable time laying out Page’s extensive ties to Russia and the reasoning for possible suspicion of his motives.

"Despite the meticulous records Page kept on his personal hard drive detailing his daily routines, he was unable to recall any details of his trips to Moscow, or the names of senior Russian officials with whom he met, despite using his engagements with them to build his credentials within the Campaign," the report notes.

The handling of Page’s surveillance is a key episode now being examined by U.S. attorney John Durham, who was tasked by Attorney General William Barr with investigating the origins of the Russia investigation.

Both said in a statement last year that they disagreed with the determination by the Justice Department’s inspector general that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign was opened with proper cause, though it’s unclear when they might present findings that support their contention.

"The findings in this report clearly provide a fact pattern that would have demanded an investigation and to not do so would have been negligent," said John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the department and ABC News contributor. "With the release of this report it’s unclear how the Attorney General and Durham can credibly claim that this investigation wasn’t warranted or properly predicated."

A source familiar with Durham's investigation confirmed to ABC News that former CIA Director John Brennan is expected to sit for an interview with Durham's investigators this Friday. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

On Wednesday, a former FBI lawyer is expected to plead guilty in federal court to altering a document that was used to renew an application for continued surveillance of Page after Trump took office, the first public case out of Durham’s investigation. However, nothing in the public court documents suggest a broader conspiracy against Trump, as Barr has repeatedly alleged.

ABC News' James Meek contributed to this report.

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