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Trump Denies Collusion After Senate Report Finds Evidence Of Russia's 2016 Election Interference

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives for a rally at Yuma International Airport on August 18 in Yuma, Arizona.

U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election showed he had not colluded with Russia or Ukraine.

“I don't know anything about it. I didn't read it," Trump told reporters on August 18 in Yuma, Arizona, where he was holding a campaign event. "It's all a hoax."

Trump, who has repeatedly called the Russia investigations a “hoax," added, “All I know is that I have nothing to do with [Russia or Ukraine] and that came out loud and clear in the report."

Trump's 2020 campaign responded to the report by saying it was evidence that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The "Russia Collusion Hoax is the greatest political scandal in the history of this country," it added in a statement.

The report details an aggressive effort by Russia to interfere in the 2016 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.

The fifth and final report by the Republican-led committee also found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hack into the Democratic Party and the leak of information to damage Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign against Trump.

The Senate panel called the 1,300-page report “the most comprehensive description to date of Russia's activities and the threat they posed,” describing Russia as engaged in an “aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”

Moscow's intent was to harm the Clinton campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the Trump campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the U.S. democratic process.”
-- Senate report on 2016 election

The bipartisan investigation lasted almost 3 1/2 years.

“Moscow's intent was to harm the Clinton campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the Trump campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the U.S. democratic process,” the report stated.

It also found that WikiLeaks played a key role in Russia's effort to influence the election to help Trump, and that the website “very likely knew” it was assisting a Russian influence effort, the committee’s report said.

While Russia’s GRU military intelligence and WikiLeaks released hacked Democratic Party documents, the report found the Trump campaign sought to use the WikiLeaks hacks to aid the campaign.

The panel does not reach a conclusion about whether there is enough evidence that Trump’s campaign coordinated or colluded with Russia, leaving that open to interpretation by Republicans and Democrats.

A group of Republicans on the panel submitted “additional views,” saying that it should state more explicitly that Trump’s campaign did not coordinate with Russia. But Democrats on the panel submitted their own views, arguing that the report clearly shows such cooperation.

The Senate investigation also examined issues of interest to Trump that were not explored by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who concluded in a report issued in 2019 that Russia interfered in the election. Those include the FBI's reliance on a dossier of opposition research compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, whose work was financed by Democrats.

Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida), the committee's acting chairman, said in a statement that the committee was troubled that the FBI had been willing to use the dossier “without verifying its methodology or sourcing” as it applied for secret surveillance warrants.

The Senate panel lays out close contacts between Trump associates and the Russians, describing in particular Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s connections to Russia and Russia-aligned oligarchs in Ukraine.

The report notes how for years Manafort worked closely with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian whom the FBI suspects has ties to Russian intelligence. The panel unequivocally states Kilimnik was a Russian intelligence officer and that Deripaska coordinated with the Russian government to conduct influence operations abroad.

“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 and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” the panel said.

Manafort was sentenced in March 2019 to more than seven years in prison after being convicted on bank- and tax-fraud charges and charges stemming from his work for Ukrainian politicians. The convictions did not deal directly with questions of possible Russian interference in the election.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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