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Aug. 18, 2020, 7:42 p.m. EDT

Russia meddled on Trump’s behalf in 2016, bipartisan Senate intelligence report concludes

Senate committee calls its 1,300-plus-page report the most comprehensive description to date of Russia’s activities and the threat they posed, overshadowing even the Mueller report

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian intelligence services during the 2016 presidential election posed a “grave” counterintelligence threat, a Senate panel concluded Tuesday as it detailed how associates of 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 says 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.

Read the full report: Senate Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Vol. 5

Republicans on the panel submitted ‘additional views’ indicating the report should state that Trump’s campaign did not coordinate with Russia, while Democrats on the panel submitted their determination that the report clearly shows precisely such cooperation.

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 U.S. 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.

Trump, who has repeatedly called the Russia investigations a “hoax,” said Tuesday he “didn’t know anything about” the report, or Russia or Ukraine.

“All I know is that I have nothing to do with either one of them and that came out loud and clear in the report,” Trump said.

While Mueller’s 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.

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Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, is the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose chairman since earlier this year has been Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

See: Burr submits final Senate intelligence report on Russia election interference as he departs as committee chairman

Among the more striking sections of the report is the committee’s description of the professional relationship between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the committee describes as a Russian intelligence officer.

“Taken as a whole, Manafort’s high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik, represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” the report says.

The report notes how Manafort shared internal Trump campaign polling data with Kilimnik and says there is “some evidence” Kilimnik may have been connected to Russia’s effort to hack and leak Democratic emails, though that information is redacted. The report also says “two pieces of information” raise the possibility of Manafort’s potential connection to those operations, but what follows is again blacked out.

Both men were charged in Mueller’s investigation, but neither was accused of any tie to the hacking.

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