The Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian intelligence services during the 2016 presidential election posed a “grave” counterintelligence threat, a Senate panel concluded on August 18 as it detailed how associates of President Donald Trump had regular contact with Russians and expected to benefit from the Kremlin’s help. The nearly 1,000-page report, the fifth and final one from the Republican-led Senate intelligence committee on the Russia investigation, details how Russia launched an aggressive effort to interfere in the election on Trump’s behalf. It says the Trump campaign chairman had regular contact with a Russian intelligence officer and that other Trump associates were eager to exploit the Kremlin’s aid, particularly by maximizing the impact of the disclosure of Democratic emails hacked by Russian intelligence officers.
The report is the culmination of a bipartisan probe that produced what the committee called “the most comprehensive description to date of Russia’s activities and the threat they posed.” The investigation spanned more than three years as the panel’s leaders said they wanted to thoroughly document the unprecedented attack on US elections. The findings, including unflinching characterizations of furtive interactions between Trump associates and Russian operatives, echo to a large degree those of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and appear to repudiate the Republican president’s claims that the FBI had no basis to investigate whether his campaign was conspiring with Russia. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called the Russia investigations a “hoax,” said he “didn’t know anything about” the report, or Russia or Ukraine. He said he had “nothing” to do with Russia.
While the Mueller investigation was a criminal probe, the Senate investigation was a counterintelligence effort with the aim of ensuring that such interference wouldn’t happen again. The report issued several recommendations on that front, including that the FBI should do more to protect presidential campaigns from foreign interference. The report was released as two other Senate committees, the Judiciary and Homeland Security panels, conduct their own reviews of the Russia probe with an eye toward uncovering what they say was FBI misconduct in the early days of the investigation. A prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William Barr, who regards the Russia investigation with skepticism, disclosed his first criminal charge Friday against a former FBI lawyer who plans to plead guilty to altering a government email.