WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called an end on Monday to their year-long investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, concluding that there was "no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians."
The probe was ended over the objections of Democrats, who charged that key documents and testimony still have not been obtained.
Republicans said they agreed with the U.S. intelligence community's January 2017 report that Russia tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, but did not agree that the Russians were trying to help Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The GOP majority on the House panel will show its 150-page draft report to Democrats on Tuesday before seeking approval from the full committee to release it to the public. Democrats plan to write a separate report that will likely conclude there is strong evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
The investigation's abrupt end underscores the bitter partisan divide that has plagued the committee's work. And it increases pressure on the collegial Senate Intelligence Committee to come out with a credible bipartisan report from its own Russia probe.
"The House Majority has announced it is terminating the Russia investigation, leaving to others the important work of determining the full extent of Russian interference in our election, the role of U.S. persons connected to the Trump campaign in that intervention, possible efforts to obstruct the investigation by the President and most important, what needs to be done to protect the country going forward," Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House panel, said Monday night.
Schiff said Republicans were under great pressure to end the investigation of a GOP president.
"It is nonetheless another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch," Schiff said. "By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly."
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who led the Russia investigation for the House Republicans, said the panel conducted 73 witness interviews, held nine hearings and briefings, and reviewed over 300,000 documents.
He said the probe focused on: Russian interference in the 2016 election, the government's response, links between Russians and both the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and the purported leaks of classified information.
"We are confident that we have thoroughly investigated the agreed-upon parameters, and developed reliable initial findings and recommendations," Conaway said.
President Trump touted the GOP majority's conclusion in a tweet Monday night.
While Republicans discovered no evidence of collusion, an outline of their draft report says they found Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political institutions in 2015-16, the use of social media by Russians to sow discord in America, a pattern of Russian attacks on America's European allies, and a "lackluster" pre-election response by the U.S. government to Russian actions. The "lackluster" comment is a dig at the Obama administration.
The GOP report also will describe "how anti-Trump research made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign" and "problematic contacts between senior Intelligence Community officials and the media" — an apparent reference to alleged leaks.
"Anti-Trump research" refers to a controversial dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele that details alleged ties between Trump and Russians. It was commissioned by an opposition research firm and funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Republicans began signaling in recent weeks that they were anxious to wrap up the investigation, saying they had explored all the key evidence.
Democrats, meanwhile, have been warning that Republicans were going to end the investigation prematurely, without calling dozens of important witnesses to testify and without forcing many of those who testified to answer crucial questions.
Schiff said Republicans declined to subpoena witnesses to compel them to answer key questions after witnesses refused to do so during their voluntary, closed-door appearances before the committee. Among the witnesses who refused to answer crucial questions: Donald Trump Jr., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and former White House communications director Hope Hicks.
When former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon refused to answer questions even after being subpoenaed, Republicans would not take action to hold him in contempt of Congress, Democrats said.
Schiff said Republicans have also refused Democrats' requests to subpoena vital documents, including financial and communications records that could verify or refute witness testimony.
"If the Russians do have leverage over the President of the United States, the Majority has simply decided it would rather not know," Schiff said.
The committee's traditional bipartisanship began unraveling in the spring of last year, when Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., took a secret trip to the White House grounds to review information gathered by unnamed sources purporting to show that President Trump was under surveillance by the Obama administration during the 2016 campaign.
At a news conference after his trip, Nunes told reporters that he had discovered evidence to support the president's claim that he was wiretapped at Trump Tower. However, the Justice Department confirmed in a court filing in September that there was no evidence that Trump Tower was targeted for surveillance.
Nunes temporarily stepped aside from the Russia investigation last April when the House Ethics Committee announced that it was investigating whether Nunes violated any laws or congressional rules by disclosing classified information. The Ethics Committee closed its investigation of Nunes in December.
Even while he had stepped aside, Nunes upset Democrats by continuing to issue subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, has focused his own inquiries on actions by Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. Those inquires will now continue, Republicans said Monday.
"Additional follow-on efforts arising from the investigation include oversight of the unmasking of Americans’ names in intelligence reports, FISA (surveillance) abuse, and other matters," according to the outline of the GOP draft memo. Democrats have charged that those efforts are attempts by Republicans to divert attention away from Trump.
The committee's partisan split grew deeper in February, when Republicans released the "Nunes memo" alleging that the FBI and Justice Department abused their surveillance authority to target Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016.
Democrats denounced the Nunes memo as a blatant attempt by Trump and House Republicans to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. They released a rebuttal memo a few weeks later.
At one point, Republicans considered erecting a wall in the committee's office to separate GOP and Democratic aides. However, that idea appears to have been scrapped.
In addition to the investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee has conducted a more limited probe and is not expected to issue a final report. The most extensive investigation is being run on behalf of the Department of Justice by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose criminal probe is continuing.
"In the coming weeks and months, new information will continue to be exposed through enterprising journalism, indictments by the Special Counsel, or continued investigative work by Committee Democrats and our counterparts in the Senate," Schiff said.