On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released what may be the final word on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s efforts to benefit from it. We have long known that Russia attempted to manipulate our election by hacking and leaking Democratic operatives’ emails as well as fomenting division through a social media disinformation campaign—and at the very least, the Trump team was aware of and welcomed this meddling. The production of the fifth and final volume of the committee’s bipartisan report follows similar reports from the House Intelligence Committee and the special counsel’s office, as well as years of reporting on Russia’s election meddling. At this point, there may be no more bombshells to pull out of 2016’s debris.
There is one notable thing about the Senate report: the bipartisan acceptance of most of the hotly contended findings of the Mueller report and the House Intelligence Committee’s Democratic minority report, which were both met by Republicans as partisan witch hunts. In a few places, the report seems to go slightly further than the previous investigations did. But for the most part, the Senate committee report is a rehash of the already devastating facts that the other reports surfaced, which were dismissed both by the public and in Congress as not big enough of a deal to merit President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
At the very least, the sometimes slightly supplementary report provides a good reminder of how truly earth-shattering the Russia scandal would have been in any other administration and how much damage it did to America’s creaky democratic institutions. Here are the top five revelations—or “revelations”—from the Senate intelligence report, even though they were already mostly revealed in one form or other, and they stand to make no difference once again.
5. Trump’s “CrowdStrike” theory was Russian disinformation
What the report says: The Senate Intelligence Committee notes that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort claimed it was actually Ukraine and not Russia that hacked the accounts of Democratic officials during the 2016 campaign. This bizarre conspiracy theory—contradicted by all available evidence—was notably espoused by Trump, who asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into the “CrowdStrike” Ukraine “server” during the call that resulted in his impeachment. The Senate Intelligence Committee reached the bipartisan conclusion that this theory actually originated in part from a former Manafort associate and Russian intelligence asset named Konstantin Kilimnik. “According to [Manafort deputy Rick] Gates,” the report notes, “Kilimnik also asserted that the hack could have been done by ‘Russian operatives in Ukraine.’ ” The theory undergirded the defense mounted by House Republicans during last year’s impeachment inquiry. Senate Republicans reached a different conclusion. “The Committee has determined that this theory espoused by Kilimnik and Manafort has no factual basis,” the report noted.
What we already knew: Everything except for the committee’s bipartisan conclusion about the theory being bogus. The information about Kilimnik and Manafort propagating the theory came from the Mueller investigation and was released last year in response to lawsuits by BuzzFeed and CNN.
4. Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi’s Russian collusion
What the report says: The Senate Intelligence Committee notes that Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone called up author Jerome Corsi the day that the Trump Access Hollywood tape was released and may have encouraged him to put pressure on Julian Assange to release stolen emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in direct response. According to the report: “Corsi and Stone spoke twice that day at length: once at 1:42 p.m. for 18 minutes, and once at 2:18 p.m. for 21 minutes. Corsi recalled learning from Stone that the Access Hollywood tape would be coming out, and that Stone ‘[w]anted the Podesta stuff to balance the news cycle’ either ‘right then or at least coincident.’ According to Corsi, Stone also told him to have WikiLeaks ‘drop the Podesta emails immediately.’ ”
What we already knew: While it would be a bombshell if the committee had evidence that Stone orchestrated the release of the Podesta emails, that is not what it concluded. And what it actually reported was made public with greater information—and caveats—in portions of the Mueller report that were unredacted in June. In that report, special counsel Robert Mueller noted that “Corsi gave conflicting accounts of what happened after Stone purportedly informed him about the video” and that the special counsel “investigated Corsi’s allegations about the events of October 7, 2016 but found little corroboration for his allegations about the day.” The Senate report declares as fact one of Corsi’s contradictory accounts, sources it to the Mueller report, but doesn’t say why that particular version of Corsi’s story is the correct one.
3. Michael Cohen, Trump kompromat, and a friend in Georgia
What the report says: Discounting the infamous pee tape allegation made in the Steele dossier, the committee said it investigated and was unable to corroborate “three general sets of allegations” around “compromising information” Russians were said to have been collecting about Donald Trump. The report goes into some fascinating details about claims surrounding Russian kompromat efforts and about Trump’s previous trips to Russia without providing much in the way of hard evidence. It notes that Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen exchanged texts with a Georgian friend and associate days before the election about efforts to stop “tapes from Russia” after a “person in Moscow was bragging had tapes from Russia trip.”
What we already knew: Cohen’s text exchange with his Georgian friend was actually a footnote from the Mueller report, and it didn’t lead anywhere. Also notably, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that it was “aware of a realistic and well-sourced, but fake, video of someone who looks like Trump portraying him in a situation consistent with the uncorroborated allegations” of a pee tape from the Steele dossier. If you read Ashley Feinberg’s reporting in Slate last year, though, you would have already been aware of this as well.
2. Trump’s campaign chairman colluded with a Russian agent
What the report says: It says that Manafort gave inside information—including internal polling data—to Kilimnik. It further reported definitively that “Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer” and less definitively that the committee “obtained some information suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected to the GRU’s hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 U.S. election.” Further: “The Committee assesses that Kilimnik likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services.”
What we already knew: The evidence that Kilimnik may have played some role in the election hack is entirely new. As the Democrats on the committee noted in a complaint about “excessive redactions,” though, that information is almost entirely blacked out, so there’s no way to assess how strong the evidence actually is. Maybe a future Democratic-led Senate Intelligence Committee or future Democratic administration might reveal some of this evidence in the years ahead, depending on the outcome of November’s election. As I noted immediately after the Mueller report’s release, the fact that the head of the Trump campaign directly conspired with a man assessed to be a possible Russian intelligence asset was the unmistakable conclusion of that investigation.
1. Trump gave false testimony to Mueller
What the report says: Trump had at least one conversation with Stone in which the pair discussed the WikiLeaks hack and Stone claimed to offer advance notice of one hack, according to Gates. This contradicts Trump’s sworn testimony to the special counsel: “Trump, in written responses to the SCO, stated: ‘I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign.’ Trump further claimed that he had ‘no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016 and November 8, 2016.’ Despite Trump’s recollection, the Committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone’s access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions.”
What we already knew: We already knew from Stone’s prosecution that the president likely committed felony perjury in his written responses to the Mueller inquiry. (Stone has since had his sentence in that case commuted by Trump after convictions for perjury and witness tampering.) To hear the Senate Intelligence Committee—including the Republicans on the committee—affirm the facts of this finding, though, is surprising.
Ultimately, any one of these scandals likely would have been enough to end any previous presidency. With Donald Trump, they are all old news.
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