The Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed in an extensive report Tuesday, Aug. 19, that there is no evidence that the campaign of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government in the 2016 elections. The conclusion is in line with the findings of other investigations into the alleged conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin.
The false Russian collusion
In July 2016, the FBI began an investigation to determine whether Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia to win that year’s presidential election. The agency relied on information contained in the famous Steele dossier. The dossier was compiled by Fusion GPS and former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee financed it.
Once President Donald Trump arrived at the White House and the accusations of Russian collusion surfaced, he repeatedly denied such information.
That’s why then-special counsel Robert Mueller began a thorough and expensive investigation in May 2017 to determine whether such collusion existed. Finally, after 22 months, he found no evidence that President Trump or his campaign knowingly conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Did Obama illegally spy on Trump?
Beyond the fact that it had already been proven—and has now been ratified by the Senate Intelligence Committee—that President Trump’s campaign did not collude with Russia, investigations into the case are yielding data that could prove that the Obama administration illegally spied on the Republican candidate’s campaign.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report Dec. 9, 2020, in which he found 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the application and renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant that the FBI used to spy on President Trump’s campaign adviser Carter Page.
The Steele dossier played a “critical” role in getting Justice to authorize an FBI surveillance order on President Trump’s campaign aide.
Since then, Congress has been seeking to know the extent of those “significant inaccuracies and omissions” that were used to enforce the FISA warrant in the final months of the Obama administration.
The report of the Intelligence Committee
The 966-page Senate Intelligence Committee report also provides an assessment of the FBI’s handling of the so-called Steele dossier.
“The FBI gave the Steele dossier unjustified credence, based on an incomplete understanding of Steele’s past reporting record,” the report states, which was prepared by both Republicans and Democrats.
“We found no evidence of ‘collusion’. But we did find troubling actions by the FBI, particularly their willingness to rely on ‘Steele Dossier,’” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), acting chairman of the Senate committee, said on Twitter.
Final volume of Senate Intelligence bipartisan & thorough investigation into Russian 2016 efforts is now publichttps://t.co/nuPuYifaa4
We found no evidence of “collusion”
But we did find troubling actions by the FBI, particularly their willingness to rely on “Steele Dossier” pic.twitter.com/S5hiKDgURB
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 18, 2020
Obstacles to knowing the truth
The report also describes a number of obstacles and barriers that the Senate committee faced investigating Steele’s information.
According to the document, Steele “repeatedly refused” to meet with the panel, although he finally submitted written responses on Aug. 16, 2018.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office also refused to provide information about its investigation of the dossier, the report notes.
The report states the Senate committee was limited in its investigation because of “the centralization of information regarding the dossier” in Mueller’s office, and the “decision not to share that information with the committee.”
According to the Daily Caller, the committee interviewed several Steele associates who helped disseminate the file, including Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, former State Department official Jonathan Winer and David Kramer, an associate of the late Sen. John McCain.
The senators also expressed concern about Steele’s ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Steele had worked for Deripaska, likely beginning at least in 2012, and continued to work for him into 2017, providing a potential direct channel for Russian influence on the dossier,” the report said, according to Bloomberg.
One section of the report addresses the possibility that Russian intelligence agents may have fed false information to Steele’s network of sources that ended up in his Trump file.
The Senate committee found “irrefutable evidence” that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election, and identified several Russian attempts to intimidate President Trump’s associates during the presidential campaign and transition period.
“Perhaps the most eye-catching links laid out in the report are those between former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and a former business partner named Konstantin Kilimnik,” noted Daily Caller investigative journalist Chuck Ross.
The report says Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer.
According to the document, Manafort—who was fired from the Trump campaign in August 2016—shared nonpublic information from within the Trump campaign with Kilimnik, who in turn served as a link between Manafort and Russian millionaire Derpiaska.
“It remains unclear why Manafort provided the information to Kilimnik and whether the Trump campaign was aware of Manafort’s activities,” Ross said.
According to Ross, Russian agents reportedly tried to blackmail members of the Trump campaign by claiming they had information compromising the then-Republican candidate—particularly his meetings with women.
However, the report does not point to any conclusive evidence that the Kremlin possessed derogatory information about Trump.