Senior Republicans closed ranks behind Donald Trump, clearing his campaign of colluding with the Russians in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee concluded that while the Russians did pursue “active measures” they did not do so with the intention of easing Mr Trump’s path to the White House.
The Republicans’ findings fly in the face of the findings of American intelligence agencies, which found that the Russians were seeking to tilt the election in favour of Mr Trump.
Last year the Senate Intelligence Committee accepted the views of the intelligence community that the Russians were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
But House Republicans saw things differently as they pushed for an end to the investigation.
“We found no evidence of collusion. We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meeting,” said Michael Conaway, the Republican congressman who led the probe.
“The bottom line: the Russians did commit active measures against our election in ’16, and we think they will do that in the future,” Mr Conaway said. But, he added, “We disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.”
Timeline Russian links to the US election
In all the committee interviewed 73 witnesses and poured over 300,000 documents.
While the Senate investigation of the allegations of Russian involvement in the election has been bipartisan, the same cannot be said of the House of Representatives.
The Democrats were scathing about the Republicans’ findings, alleging key witnesses had not been interviewed including, among others, Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign and Michael Flynn, the president’s short-lived national security adviser who was forced to quit over his Russian links.
Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the Committee, has alleged that there was “ample evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Many Republicans – and the White House – are keen to end the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
But Mr Mueller, whose team has reached several plea deals with members of the Trump campaign team, is pressing ahead with its inquiry, following new lines including allegations that the Trump team tried to establish a back channel to the Kremlin early last year.
Mr Mueller was strongly defended by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, in an interview with USA Today.
With Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, having recused himself from the inquiry, it is Mr Rosenstein who is responsible for overseeing Mr Mueller’s investigation.
“The special counsel is not an unguided missile. I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel,” he said.
“I think it would be very difficult to find anybody better qualified for this job…I believe that, based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism, his experience with the department and the FBI, he was an ideal choice for this task.”
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