Another Pair of Dueling Reports Closes Out the House Intelligence Committee's Russia-Trump Investigation
Trump-supporting lawmakers find no collusion. Trump-hating lawmakers disagree.
Today the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee released its report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
As fully expected and essentially predetermined, the 253-page report concludes that there was no "collusion" between members of President Donald Trump's election campaign and the Russian government. But the report does "find poor judgment and ill-considered actions" by both campaigns—Trump's for meeting with Russians and praising WikiLeaks, Clinton's for obscuring their role in the creation of the Steele dossier. The report seems to treat it as a fact that people connected to the Russian government were responsible for hacking into the Democratic National Committee and collecting its internal emails for distribution.
The committee is headed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who was part of Trump's transition team and is far from a neutral observer. The committee's Democratic minority put out a 98-page response accusing the Republican majority of rushing to end the investigation, refusing to call important witnesses, and attempting to deflect attention from Trump.
So a good chunk of the dueling reports feel like political business as usual. They can now be used as validation for those who really, really need to feel validated, like President Trump, who has already tweeted about it:
Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. "No evidence" that the Trump Campaign "colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia." Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia- Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2018
Neither report is likely to change anything about the Justice Department investigation headed by Robert Mueller, though the Republican one will certainly be invoked rather transparently by those who want the probe shut down.
The majority report has a lengthy section of recommendations. Some of them are rather vague statements of the "we should have better cybersecurity and communication about breaches" variety. But one suggestion, seemingly out of nowhere, calls for repealing the federal Logan Act. The Logan Act is a terrible federal law that punishes free speech by making it a crime for American citizens to engage in communications with foreign governments intended to intervene in disputes with the U.S. government. Nobody has ever been convicted of violating the act, and its only real history has consisted of efforts to punish political speech.
There have been rumblings that the law could be invoked against members of Trump's team for talking to Russian officials about reactions to sanctions prior to Trump's election. So this recommendation is no doubt politically motivated to protect Trump. Nonetheless, the Logan Act is genuinely awful and should indeed be eliminated.
As if to show the partisan nature of these recommendations, the Republican report also calls for heavier criminal penalties for leakers, expansion of the surveillance authorities of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (powers used to snoop on Americans too), and expanded use of polygraph tests for political appointees—bad ideas all. The report insists that leaks linked to the Trump-Russia story have "damaged national security and potentially endangered lives," but the section of the report explaining this claim is completely redacted.