Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller dropped the final report of his Russia investigation on the Justice Department, concluding there was no evidence of conspiracy or coordination between the Trump team and Russian agents seeking to tilt the 2016 elections. Congressional Democrats are not shuttering their own investigations of the president and his associates just yet, however, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asserting just this week that there’s evidence of collusion even if it didn’t constitute criminally prosecutable conspiracy.
‘Undoubtedly there is collusion. We will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues. That is, is the president or people around him compromised in any way by a hostile foreign power?.. It doesn’t appear that was any part of Mueller’s report.’
To be clear, although Mueller’s report remains classified at present and will for “weeks,” according to the Justice Department, it doesn’t appear to specifically contradict Schiff. Collusion is a much broader concept than active criminal conspiracy, and the many points of alignment between the Trump team and Russia make at least an attempt at collusion abundantly clear. Routinely, they covertly communicated with key Russian agents, and as Schiff indicates, their ties that are clearly in place could constitute further threats outside the question of the president’s guilt.
As an example, Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn served in the White House while being compromised by both the Kremlin and the Turkish government. He was a paid lobbyist for the Turks, and he’d lied about what he’d secretly discussed with then Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak, which authorities were concerned could constitute a point of Kremlin leverage over the official — and that’s not an isolated incident or concern.
Intelligence Committee member Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) backed Schiff up, offering of the special counsel’s final report:
‘It doesn’t mean there wasn’t an enormous amount of smoke there. This was a fine legal distinction Mr. Mueller had to make.’
Democrats are still after underlying evidence in the Mueller investigation that could illuminate more “smoke,” having issued a deadline of April 2 for Attorney General William Barr or another intermediary to hand over the initial report. The Justice Department is reviewing it for possible points covered by federal law protecting grand jury proceedings — and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said this week Barr would also be sending the report to the White House to offer them a chance to claim executive privilege over the contents.
The Trump administration has used “executive privilege” infamously liberally in the past, even getting Republicans up in arms when former presidential adviser Steve Bannon appeared before the then-GOP led House Intelligence Committee and wouldn’t answer a massive swath of their questions.
House Democrats have already indicated they’re ready and willing to use whatever means necessary to get the information they’re after. Schiff has said he’d have Mueller in for testimony, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has said he’s willing to take the fight for Mueller’s report to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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