The Report the Senate Doesn’t Want You to See

You know, there’s a reason that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence decided to issue their most recent report late in the day on July 3rd, on the eve of a national holiday. The committee is controlled by Republicans and chaired by Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, but the report contained nothing but bad news for the Republican president. If they felt compelled to issue a truthful report, they felt no similar obligation to make sure that it reached the broadest possible audience. They went for the smallest possible audience, and it seems to have worked very well considering that it isn’t among the top stories in the news today.

The committee found that Russia did indeed intervene in the election with the express purpose of hurting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy or potential presidency and of helping Donald Trump win. It found that the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) that was released in January 2017 was based on solid information and defensible analytical assumptions. It found that Russia did in fact penetrate multiple state and local electoral boards and they reported that their subsequent investigation had unearthed further evidence of this. It noted the ICA’s previous reporting in Russian troll farms and announced “the Committee’s investigation has exposed a far more extensive Russian effort to manipulate social media outlets to sow discord and to interfere in the 2016 election and American society.” It agreed that all of this was personally ordered by Vladimir Putin.

As for the Steele Dossier, the committee found that it did not improperly influence the findings of the ICA report:

The FBI had a collection of reports a former foreign intelligence officer was hired to compile as opposition research for the U.S. election, referred to as the “dossier,” when the ICA was drafted. However, those reports remained separate from the conclusions of the ICA. All individuals the Committee interviewed verified that the dossier did not in any way inform the analysis in the ICA- including the key findings – because it was unverified information and had not been disseminated as serialized intelligence reporting.

To sum up, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee believes that Russia aggressively intervened in the 2016 presidential election with the express purpose of helping Trump win, that Putin ordered this, that the Intelligence Community was correct in reporting these facts and that the Steele Dossier played no important or improper role in their conclusions.

All of that is contrary to both what the president and his allies have been saying. All of it.

Now, you know what else happened on July 3rd? This happened:

Republican members of Congress sounded a newly conciliatory tone in meetings with Russian lawmakers and officials here on Tuesday in a rare visit to Moscow and a preview of the looming summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told Russia’s foreign minister that while Russia and the United States were competitors, “we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries.” Later on at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, members attending a plenary session greeted the Americans with applause.

“I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,” Shelby told Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. “I’m saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.”

The Republicans’ meetings in Moscow — coming after the lawmakers visited St. Petersburg and took in the ballet “Sleeping Beauty” — helped set the tone for the July 16 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki.

Does that seem right to you? Does any of that seem right?

In addition to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the delegation included Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota, Homeland Security chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and John Hoeven of North Dakota. Rep. Kay Granger of Texas was also in attendance.

Interestingly, none of these people serve on the Intelligence Committee, but most of them represent states that are highly dependent on fossil fuels.

If nothing else, they were showing their approval of an upcoming Helsinki summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump which is set to occur in the context of a major investigation into whether Trump and Putin acted in concert during the 2016 election. And if that isn’t sketchy enough, how is this for inappropriate?

President Trump “plans to meet one-on-one with Vladimir Putin at the start of their July 16 summit in Helsinki, Finland… before allowing other aides to join the highly anticipated encounter with the Russian leader,” CNNreports.

“Without official note-takers or other witnesses, one-on-one meetings lack any official record, making it difficult afterward to determine whether agreements have been reached.”

How is that okay?

I’m glad the Senate Intelligence Committee is trying to do its job, especially when contrasted with Devin Nunes’s effort in the House, but it still protected the president as much as possible by issuing the report when it will receive the least amount of attention and readership. And its colleagues were hardly acting like the findings of the committee matter to them. They were in Moscow attending Sleeping Beauty.

Somehow, that seems like a disturbingly apt choice of entertainment.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.