Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

The long-rumored fourth volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian collusion was released today, and while heavily redacted as it directly involves intelligence methods and means, the conclusion that Vladimir Putin and Russia helped elect Donald Trump in 2016 is inescapable.

Tuesday's bipartisan report, from a panel chaired by North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, undercuts Trump's years of efforts to portray allegations of Kremlin assistance to his campaign as a "hoax," driven by Democrats and a “deep state” embedded within the government bureaucracy.

The intelligence community’s initial January 2017 assessment of Moscow’s influence campaign included “specific intelligence reporting to support the assessment that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russian government demonstrated a preference for candidate Trump,” the committee’s report says. The panel also found “specific intelligence” to support the conclusion that Putin “approved and directed aspects” of the Kremlin’s interference efforts.

Senators and committee aides examined everything from the sources and methods used for the intelligence-gathering, to the Kremlin’s actions itself. The 158-page report is heavily redacted, with dozens of pages blacked out entirely. But its final conclusions were unambiguous.

“The committee found no reason to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusions,” Burr said in a statement, adding that the intelligence community’s conclusions reflect “strong tradecraft” and “sound analytical reasoning.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s vice chairman, praised the intelligence agencies’ “unbiased and professional work,” and warned that there was “no reason to doubt that the Russians’ success in 2016 is leading them to try again in 2020.”

The panel's findings are in line with a previously issued bipartisan statement in which Senate Intelligence leaders endorsed the January 2017 assessment by the clandestine community. The newest conclusions come in the fourth of five reports the committee is releasing on Moscow’s interference in the 2016 campaign. The committee last month approved the report unanimously.

The report devotes “additional attention” to the disagreements among some intelligence agencies about the Russian government’s intentions in meddling in the 2016 campaign. The report states that “the analytic disagreement was reasonable, transparent, and openly debated among the agencies and analysts.”

It also notes that the committee interviewed officials involved in drafting the January 2017 assessment, which came out days before Trump's inauguration, and states that they were not subject to political pressure.

The January 2017 assessment found that “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

Notably, according to the Senate’s report, the initial assessment did not include information from or citations based on former British spy Christopher Steele’s unverified dossier of claims about Trump’s relationship with Russia. It noted that the FBI’s senior leadership insisted, though, that the dossier be mentioned in an annex. The Steele dossier is expected to be addressed in the committee’s fifth and final report.

Again, this is a Senate report, on a committee headed by Republican Richard Burr, that states that yes, the Russians helped Trump, and that this particular conclusion was reached without the Steele Dossier.

And let's remember that DC Federal Judge Reggie Walton still has his unredacted copy of the Mueller Report to examine.  Even with COVID-19 delaying federal court proceedings by weeks, Walton is expected to start his review of the report this week, as Chuck Pierce notes.

I choose to believe that, maybe, it’s because federal Judge Reggie Walton has cloistered himself at the moment to do some serious reading. From the National Law Journal:
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton of the District of Columbia had ordered the Justice Department to turn over the report, in a ruling that sharply criticized U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the more than 400-page document. Walton said Barr displayed a “lack of candor” in his public rollout of the Mueller report, and the judge assailed the Justice Department leader for appearing to spin the Russia investigation’s findings “in favor of President Trump.” 
“The court has grave concerns about the objectivity of the process that preceded the public release of the redacted version of the Mueller Report and its impacts on the department’s subsequent justifications that its redactions of the Mueller Report are authorized by the [Freedom of Information Act],” Walton said in his 23-page ruling March 5.

Justice Department lawyers submitted the report Monday, only to have Walton note that he will not be able to review the unredacted version until at least April 20, in light of an order issued by Chief Judge Beryl Howell that drastically limited the court’s operations amid the coronavirus crisis.
This would account for the wild detour that the president* took over the weekend when he hijacked some time in the Follies to go after Mueller again. At the time, I just thought that one of the tiny hamsters in his brain had fallen off the wheel. Now, I’m not so sure. When last we heard from Judge Walton, he was fitting William Barr’s reputation for a shroud. Now, he’s self-quarantined with the entire Mueller report. That’s got to get knees watery all throughout the administration*.

Count on it.  Trump knew both the Senate Intel report and Judge Walton's review were coming this week.  It's far from over, guys.

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