Russia launched an aggressive effort to interfere in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump, and Trump associates who were in regular touch with Russians throughout the campaign were eager to benefit from the help, a Senate panel concluded Tuesday in the fifth and final report in its investigation, per the AP. Though the report from the Senate Intelligence Committee doesn't reach a conclusion about whether the Trump campaign and Russia criminally conspired to sway the election, it nonetheless describes the eagerness of Trump associates to exploit the Kremlin's aid, particularly Democratic emails that were hacked by Russian military intelligence officers and disclosed by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks in the runup to the election. Read the full report here. More:
- Manafort's ties: The report from the Republican-led panel lays out significant contacts between Trump associates and Russians, describing for instance a close professional relationship between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the committee describes without equivocation as a Russian intelligence officer.
- The hack: The report notes how Manafort shared internal Trump campaign polling data with Kilimnik and says there is "some evidence" that Kilimnik may have been connected to the Kremlin's operation to hack and leak Democratic emails, though it doesn't describe that evidence. In addition, the report says that "two pieces of information" raise the possibility of Manafort's potential connection to those operations, but what follows next in the document is blacked out.
- No conclusion: The report purposely doesn't come to a final conclusion, as the other reports did, about whether there's enough evidence that Trump's campaign coordinated or colluded with Russia to sway the election to him and away from Hillary Clinton, leaving its findings open to partisan interpretation.
- Democrat: Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner cited "a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections," per the Washington Post. He encouraged "all Americans to carefully review the documented evidence of the unprecedented and massive intervention campaign waged on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump by Russians and their operatives and to reach their own independent conclusions."
- Republican: "We can say, without any hesitation, that the Committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election," said acting chairman Sen. Marco Rubio. He added, however, that "what the Committee did find ... is very troubling" and included "irrefutable evidence of Russian meddling."
- Another view: "One of the Committee's most important—and overlooked—findings is that much of Russia's activities weren't related to producing a specific electoral outcome, but attempted to undermine our faith in the democratic process itself," said GOP Sen. Richard Burr, the panel's previous chairman who oversaw much of the investigation. "Their aim is to sow chaos, discord, and distrust. Their efforts are not limited to elections. The threat is ongoing."
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