A Republican-led Senate panel found that ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a 'grave counterintelligence threat' because of his Russia ties

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A Republican-led Senate panel found that ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a 'grave counterintelligence threat' because of his Russia ties
Reuters
  • The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the final installment in its years-long investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
  • The bipartisan report confirmed much of what the former special counsel Robert Mueller found in the FBI's Russia probe. In some cases, it went further than Mueller did.
  • It did not find evidence that the Ukrainian government meddled in the 2016 election, as Trump alleged. It also determined that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a "grave counterintelligence threat" because of his Russia ties.
  • Overall, the report threw a wrench into President Donald Trump's efforts to portray the Russia probe as a partisan "witch hunt" and a "hoax."
  • Scroll down for the biggest takeaways from Tuesday's report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the final installment of its years-long investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

Volume 5 of the report was nearly 1,000 pages long and focused primarily on counterintelligence threats, vulnerabilities, and the "wide range of Russian efforts to influence the Trump Campaign and the 2016 election."

Broadly, the bipartisan report confirmed much of what the former special counsel Robert Mueller found in his investigation into Russia's election meddling.

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Tuesday's release by the Republican-led Senate panel also threw a wrench into President Donald Trump's efforts to portray Mueller's probe as a partisan "witch hunt" and claims of Russia's interference as a "hoax" intended to undermine his presidency.

Here are the key takeaways from the Senate's report and how they stack up with what Mueller found:

  • Perhaps the biggest finding was buried in a footnote more than 100 pages into the report: "The Committee's efforts focused on investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. However, during the course of the investigation, the Committee identified no reliable evidence that the Ukrainian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election."
    • Trump and his allies — including some Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee — have repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to propel Hillary Clinton to the Oval Office. Although some Ukrainian officials expressed support for Clinton over Trump, the US intelligence community, and now the SSCI, did not uncover evidence of a top-down effort by the Ukrainian government to swing the race in Clinton's favor.
  • Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a "grave counterintelligence threat" to the US because of his extensive ties to pro-Russian individuals and entities, the report said.
    • "Taken as a whole, Manafort's high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly [Konstantin] Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat," the report said.
  • Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence operative with close ties to Manafort, "may be connected" to the GRU's "hack-and-leak operation related to the 2016 U.S. election."
    • The GRU is Russia's primary military intelligence agency, and the "hack-and-leak" operation the committee mentioned refers to the GRU's efforts to breach the Democratic National Committee's servers in 2016 and disseminate damaging information via WikiLeaks and the Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0.
  • Tuesday's report was the first time Kilimnik was identified specifically as an intelligence officer. As The New York Times pointed out, Mueller's report on Russian interference identified him as someone with ties to Russian intelligence. The Senate report said Kilimnik "almost certainly helped arrange some of the first public messaging that Ukraine had interfered in the U.S. election."
  • The report hinted at the possibility that Manafort had knowledge of the GRU's hacking campaign. "Two pieces of information ... raise the possibility of Manafort's potential connection to the hack-and-leak operations," the report said. Several subsequent paragraphs were redacted.
    • Manafort's involvement in the hack-and-leak operation is "largely unknown," the report said, and the committee did not have "reliable, direct evidence" showing that he and Kilimnik discussed the breach. However, "the content of the majority of the communications between Manafort and Kilimnik is unknown" and there is no "objective record" of the two men's conversations when they met in person.
  • The longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone drafted at least eight tweets supporting Russia for then Republican candidate Donald Trump in July 2016. The report said Stone emailed the drafts to one of Trump's assistants with the subject line, "Tweets Mr. Trump requested last night."
    • "Many of the draft tweets attacked [then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton] for her adversarial posture toward Russia and mentioned a new peace deal with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, such as 'I want a new detente with Russia under Putin,'" the report said.
    • Stone was in communications with both WikiLeaks and the Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0 during the election; according to the Mueller report, Guccifer 2.0 was a conduit set up by Russian military intelligence to anonymously funnel stolen information to WikiLeaks.
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation found "significant evidence to suggest that, in the summer of 2016, WikiLeaks was knowingly collaborating with Russian government officials," the report said. Two bullet points directly following that statement were redacted from the report, as were significant portions of a footnote on the page.
  • Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime former lawyer and fixer who later flipped against him, said that after he was indicted by the Southern District of New York, he "discussed a potential pardon for himself with Jay Sekulow 'more than a half dozen times.'" Sekulow is one of Trump's personal defense attorneys. Cohen "further stated that he understood that the pardon discussions had come from Trump through Sekulow."
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who attended a 2016 Trump Tower meeting with campaign officials, "has significant and concerning connections to Russian government and intelligence officials, and has not been forthcoming about those relationships." The next nearly four pages of the report contained redacted information.
  • The White House's broad claims of executive privilege "significantly hampered and prolonged the Committee's investigative effort," the report said.
  • The FBI gave "unjustified credence" to the so-called Steele dossier, an explosive collections of uncorroborated memos alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, the report said. The dossier was put together by the former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, and it "lacked rigor and transparency about the quality of the sourcing."
    • The FBI did not take the "necessary steps to validate assumptions about Steele's credibility" before relying on the dossier to seek renewals of a surveillance warrant targeting the former Trump campaign aide, the report said.
    • The bureau also "did not effectively adjust its approach to Steele's reporting once one of Steele's subsources provided information that raised serious concerns about the source descriptions in the Steele dossier."
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