U.S. President Donald Trump has commended the release of a report by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, saying it proves there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Questioned about it during a joint news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said, “We were honored. It was a great report. No collusion, which I knew anyway.”
He called the investigation “a witch hunt,” echoing a phrase he had tweeted earlier that morning, and added: “If we can get along with Russia, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. But there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me.”
Trump was questioned about the 243-page report released Friday by the House Intelligence Committee. The report contained a large number of redactions and a conclusion that while the meddling by Russia was real, collusion with the Trump campaign was not.
It called contacts between Russian officials and campaign aides “ill-advised” and said at least one person might have given answers in legal testimony that were “incomplete.”
The Republicans on the committee said their report was based on interviews with 73 people and a review of more than 300,000 documents.
But the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, told reporters that the report exemplified “the [Republican] majority’s fundamentally flawed approach to the investigation and the superficial and political nature of its conclusions.”
The report criticized intelligence officials, saying they leaked information before and after the election that installed Trump as president. It pointed out reports published by The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC and CNN as examples of dangerous leaks.
Much of the information in the section on leaks was redacted, a fact that gave rise to criticism of the report itself.
Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican who is chairman of the committee, told reporters that he hoped a more transparent version of the report could be released later. He indicated the redactions were not the doing of the committee, but instead of federal agencies vetting the report. He said the committee “will convey our objections to the appropriate agencies and looks forward to publishing a less redacted version in the near future.”
A Democratic rebuttal of the report called its conclusions “misleading and unsupported by the facts and the investigative record.” It also faulted the congressional investigators for failing to interview key witnesses and issue subpoenas to get crucial information. Schiff accused the Republicans on the committee of “adopting the role of defense counsel for key investigation witnesses.”
The report included the caveat that other investigations, including that of special counsel Robert Mueller, might have access to facts that the committee could not obtain. In addition to the House Intelligence Committee and Mueller's probe, the Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating the matter.