President Donald Trump trumpeted the House Intelligence Committee’s report that it found “no evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians” in an all-caps Twitter post Monday night.
THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
“We didn’t find any evidence of collusion and I don’t think [special counsel Robert Mueller] will either,” Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, who led the bipartisan investigation, said on “Special Report.”
The top Democrat on the committee, California Rep. Adam Schiff, responded to Trump with tweet saying that the panel’s Republicans “lack the courage to stand up to a President of their own party when the national interest necessitates it.”
— overpasses4America (@o4america) March 13, 2018
The committee’s investigation was based on four topics: Russian active measures against the 2016 U.S. election, the U.S. government’s response to the attack, links between Russians and the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and purported leaks of classified information.
“We believe we’ve got the information necessary to answer those for the American people,” Conaway said.
The report also noted that based on its investigation which lasted more than a year, the committee disagreed with the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a “supposed preference” for then-candidate Donald Trump.
“After more than a year, the Committee has finished its Russia investigation and will now work on completing our report,” Nunes said in a statement Monday. “I’d like to thank Congressmen Trey Gowdy, Tom Rooney, and especially Mike Conaway for the excellent job they’ve done leading this investigation. I’d also like to recognize the hard work undertaken by our other Committee members as well as our staff. Once the Committee’s final report is issued, we hope our findings and recommendations will be useful for improving security and integrity for the 2018 midterm elections.”
“When we began our investigation into what occurred leading up to the 2016 elections, our ultimate goal was to make timely recommendations for Congress, the executive branch and for states to improve election security in advance of the 2018 election. The clock is ticking,” committee member Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said. “We’re now nine months out, and the threat of Russian interference has not diminished. Make no mistake: this is a close to just one chapter in the threat posed by Moscow – which began well before the investigation – but our work does not stop here, and this Committee’s oversight over Russian threats to the U.S. will continue.”
Republicans on the committee, though, have expanded their investigation of the Trump dossier, seeking answers from Obama administration officials, including a former staffer for Vice President Joe Biden. Nunes sent a questionnaire to the former Biden staffer, whose husband worked for Fusion GPS, the firm behind the dossier, seeking answers to when the administration was made aware of the dossier.
Meanwhile, the Washington Times reports that Special counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors have invoked an unusual “conspiracy to defraud the government” charge to ensnare a Russian cyber network and could use the same legal strategy to go after President Trump and his associates, even if the conspiracy is not linked to a criminal act.
The crime of “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” is not new, but sets up a very different legal battle than trying to prove outright that President. Trump or his associates actively colluded with Russians to alter the outcome of the 2016 election.
The “conspiracy to defraud” approach, the Lawfare authors point out, “has been sitting in plain sight in the general conspiracy statute … since 1948 (and an earlier provision with substantially similar language dates to 1867). The statute makes it illegal for two or more persons to ‘conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.’”
The authors add that “unlike conspiracy to commit an offense, conspiracy to defraud the United States need not be connected to a specific underlying crime,” and “defraud” is not defined by the law.
Mr. Mueller’s IRA indictment uses the statute specifically in context of U.S. election law and while its use is not popular, several federal circuit courts have heard cases based on the theory and allowed its application regarding federal election laws.
“Russia’s sustained, many-front effort to interfere in the 2016 election — a glimpse of which was shown in the indictment — is undoubtedly more complex and far-reaching than the plots that have previously been prosecuted as conspiracies to defraud the United States,” Ms. Kohse and Mr. Wittes write. “But that makes Mueller’s theory richer, not more novel.”
Because Mr. Mueller is alleging conspiracy to defraud the FEC, DOJ and State Department, some legal scholars say recent commentary about “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Kremlin is misdirected. Instead, he appears to be building a case with the FEC, DOJ and State Department at its core — not the Kremlin.
And, the authors note, it’s not much of a legal stretch to go after U.S. citizens who aided the Russian troll farm in the conspiracy against U.S. government agencies.
“To allege that a new conspirator had joined such a conspiracy, Mueller would have to allege only that such a person — presumably a new defendant — had agreed to participate in a scheme of deceit by which the FEC, the Justice Department or the State Department was deprived of its regulatory authority,” Ms. Kohse and Mr. Wittes write.
Following that line of legal logic, any Americans who knowingly assisted the IRA troll farm — by feeding them information or directing them on how to employ that information — would be taking part in its scheme “to influence the U.S. election behind the back of the U.S. government.” They would thus be guilty of committing a crime — even if what they though they were doing was legal.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
March 13th, 2018