“But I do not recall any instance where I had direct evidence.”
The House Intelligence Committee released documents related to its investigation of possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Chairman Adam Schiff always said he had ironclad evidence Trump’s campaign had help from Russia.
Except he did not. In fact, none of the top people in President Barack Obama’s administration had any direct evidence of collusion.
Despite the findings in the transcripts, Schiff did not back down from his assertion that he was correct when he insisted they had ample evidence of collusion:
In a statement, Schiff did not back down from his contention — fiercely disputed by Republicans — that President Trump and his campaign “invited illicit Russian help” to win the 2016 election.
“Despite the many barriers put in our way by the then-Republican Majority, and attempts by some key witnesses to lie to us and obstruct our investigation, the transcripts that we are releasing today show precisely what Special Counsel Robert Mueller also revealed: That the Trump campaign, and Donald Trump himself, invited illicit Russian help, made full use of that help, and then lied and obstructed the investigations in order to cover up this misconduct,” Schiff said in a statement.
Here are excerpts from Obama officials and Trump’s former lawyer. None of them knew of direct evidence of collusion. Some saw information that raised their eyebrows, but nothing concrete. From Fox News:
The transcripts, which were released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., revealed top Obama officials were questioned over whether they had or had seen evidence of such collusion, coordination or conspiracy — the issue that drove the FBI’s initial case and later the special counsel probe.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
“I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified in 2017. “That’s not to say that there weren’t concerns about the evidence we were seeing, anecdotal evidence. … But I do not recall any instance where I had direct evidence.”
UN Ambassador Samantha Power:
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, according to the transcript of her interview, was asked about the same issue. Power replied: “I am not in possession of anything—I am not in possession and didn’t read or absorb information that came from out of the intelligence community.”
When asked again, she said: “I am not.”
National Security Adviser Susan Rice:
“To the best of my recollection, there wasn’t anything smoking, but there were some things that gave me pause,” she said, according to her transcribed interview, in response to whether she had any evidence of conspiracy. “I don’t recall intelligence that I would consider evidence to that effect that I saw…conspiracy prior to my departure.”
When asked whether she had any evidence of “coordination,” Rice replied: “I don’t recall any intelligence or evidence to that effect.”
When asked about collusion, Rice replied: “Same answer.”
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes:
Former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes was asked the same question during his House Intelligence interview.
“I wouldn’t have received any information on any criminal or counterintelligence investigations into what the Trump campaign was doing, so I would not have seen that information,” Rhodes said.
When pressed again, he said: “I saw indications of potential coordination, but I did not see, you know, the specific evidence of the actions of the Trump campaign.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch:
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch also said that she did “not recall that being briefed up to me.”
“I can’t say that it existed or not,” Lynch said, referring to evidence of collusion, conspiracy or coordination.
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe:
Meanwhile, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was not asked that specific question but rather questions about the accuracy and legitimacy of the unverified anti-Trump dossier compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
McCabe was asked during his interview in 2017 what was the most “damning or important piece of evidence in the dossier that” he “now knows is true.”
McCabe replied: “We have not been able to prove the accuracy of all the information.”
“You don’t know if it’s true or not?” a House investigator asked, to which McCabe replied: “That’s correct.”
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen:
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen – who later had a falling out with the president and was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to several crimes – repeatedly told the House panel that he had no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russian government
“Do you have any evidence or information of coordination between then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump to interfere with or influence the 2016 primary or general election?” then-South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy asked Cohen.
“No, sir,” Cohen replied.
Another transcript revealed an unnamed FBI agent said the agency barred Christopher Steele “from assisting the agency with its inquiry” at one point during the investigation.
Steele compiled the dossier against Trump in 2016. The FBI never confirmed its accuracy, but that did not stop agents from using it to gain FISA warrants and renewals:
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., questioned the unnamed agent about Steele’s involvement in the investigation during a Dec. 20, 2017, hearing. The agent claimed the bureau severed ties with Steele because of an article that ran on Mother Jones, according to the transcripts.
“I think it was November 2 or 3, there was an article in Mother Jones online magazine that was clearly problematic,” the agent said. “Basically, the source, the individual, who wasn’t named… but we all knew [it] was Steele, had went [sic] to the press to talk about what he had been doing. It was either that day or the very next morning I called him to confront him.”
The unnamed agent claimed Steele admitted he was the source for the article, which caused the agency to cut ties.
“I told him, you know, you are no longer considering — don’t consider yourself being tasked by us,” the agent continued. “You are not working on our behalf. You are not to collect any information on behalf of the FBI. I said, you know, the relationship will end. You know, this was because of his violation of the agreement that we had made back on October 3.”
The agent added: “I also told him he was not being paid. There was a payment that he was expecting at that point, and I said that that’s not going to happen.”
Swalwell asked if Steele had shared his reasons for why he spoke to Mother Jones, and the agent said it might have been a matter of money or it could have been a response to former FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the email investigation into then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I assumed he was angry because of the money. He hadn’t been paid,” the agent explained. “He had made a comment maybe once or twice during the month like, you know, when is it going to happen, this and that. Nothing unusual.”
The agent added: “So I asked him, l said, ‘Was it because of the money?’ And he goes, ‘No. The money is secondary.’ And then l said, ‘Okay. Why?’ And this was over the phone. He goes, ‘l’m very upset with the actions of your agency and with the actions of your agency on Friday.’ The Friday before was when Director Comey came out and announced that he was reopening the email investigation. And so that was the first time I had heard anything of any type of leaning whatsoever in terms of his attitude or bias.”
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