As President Donald Trump celebrated the release of a new report by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 elections, which declared there was no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign, the GOP document did contain a few new clues on where the House GOP probe looked - and where Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be checking as well.
“No evidence' that the Trump Campaign “colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia," the President tweeted, as he again denounced the Russia probe as a witch hunt.
"For example, the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer who falsely purported to have damaging information on the Clinton campaign demonstrated poor judgment,” Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee wrote.
What else was in the fine print of the GOP report? Here's a few items:
1. GOP points finger at Clapper for leaks to CNN. The 253 page GOP reports spends a big chunk of time on leaks from the intelligence community about the Trump-Russia probe, especially about the assessment made by officials that pointed the finger at Russia for election interference in 2016. The GOP report zeroes in on former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - noting that he now does work for CNN - not only tying Clapper to basic leaks about the investigation, but also the existence of the Steele Dossier. Remember, when James Comey briefed President-Elect Trump about the dossier, Comey noted in his own memos that he was worried that CNN was about to broadcast some of the more salacious details. Clapper was at Trump Tower that day to brief Mr. Trump, but Comey was the one who delivered the dossier news one-on-one to the President. "He is a lying machine who now works for Fake News CNN," Trump tweeted on Saturday.
2. Odd redactions involving Carter Page. While Republicans used the Russia report to again raise questions about how the details of the Steele Dossier may have led to a FISA warrant against Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser for a time to the Trump Campaign, the document goes to great length to redact Page's name in a number of places - even though it is obvious who is being discussed. In one paragraph, Page's name is redacted, and then not redacted. Finding #30 of the GOP report is that Page went to Moscow in July 2016 - but later, his name is blacked out in the same Finding #30. While the GOP says Page was not sent to Moscow for meetings by the Trump Campaign, the Republican report questions his broader story. "the Committee is concerned about his seemingly incomplete accounts of his activity in Moscow."
3. GOP makes clear - Russia did the hacking. While many critics of the Russia investigation - including the President himself - have raised alternate theories about who hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, John Podesta and others, the House GOP report says the answer is clear - the Russians. And like the U.S. Intelligence Community, the thought is that it goes to the top of the Kremlin. "It is therefore likely that high-level Russian government approval was required in both planning and execution of the operation," the report concludes. Some - like Wikileaks - have pushed the angle about Seth Rich, the DNC staffer whose unsolved murder spurred a variety of conspiracy theories. The GOP report doesn't mention Rich, but says that investigators looked at a number of "alternative scenarios" for the email hacks, and came to only one conclusion - Moscow was responsible.
4. A stern GOP rebuke for those who like Wikileaks. While the GOP report found "no evidence that Trump associates were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton campaign-related emails," Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee did make clear their displeasure with evidence of contacts between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks. "The Committee also found the Trump campaign's periodic praise for and communications with Wikileaks - a hostile foreign organization - to be highly objectionable and inconsistent with U.S. national security interests," the report said. That phrase - "hostile foreign organization" - is one that was used by then-CIA chief Mike Pompeo in 2017 to describe Wikileaks, which became a fan favorite of many in the GOP during the campaign, as it helped leak emails of John Podesta and other Democratic aides to Hillary Clinton.
5. A few new details revealed involving Michael Flynn.For the most part, the GOP report does not present new evidence about the investigation into contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, but there were two notable items related to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The first was a July 15, 2016 email from Flynn to a campaign 'communications advisor.' This was before any Democratic emails had been leaked. "There are a number of things happening (and will happen) this election via cyber operations (by both hacktivists, nation-states and the DNC). As the GOP report states, it's not clear what Flynn was referring to, but leaks of DNC emails did begin one week later.
6. Further Flynn contacts with the Russian embassy. The other new item released by Republicans is about a meeting with the Russian Ambassador on December 2, 2016 - involving both Flynn, and his son, Michael Flynn, Jr. This was several weeks before the Obama Administration slapped new sanctions on Russia over election interference. If you have read reports that the GOP found that "Flynn didn't lie," remember, Flynn later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had in late December with the Russian Ambassador. Also included in the footnotes of the GOP report is evidence that investigators have other email traffic between Flynn and the Russian embassy as well.