The Fifth and Final Volume

Robert Brooks Contributor
The Fifth and Final Volume
Read Time: approx. 2:45

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on August 20, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.

The Fifth and Final Volume: The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the fifth and final volume of its bipartisan report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Here’s what both sides are saying:

On the Right: Trump, who has repeatedly called the Russia investigations a “hoax,” said Tuesday he “didn’t know anything about” the report, or Russia or Ukraine. He said he had “nothing” to do with Russia. Senate Intelligence acting chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, “We can say, without any hesitation, that the Committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election. In an op-ed titled, “Trump didn’t collude with Russia to get elected, Senate panel belatedly concludes,” Gregg Jarret writes for Fox News that, “The whole Trump-Russia collusion narrative was a deviously contrived fiction.” Jarrett says, “A year-and-a-half ago, the report by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion conspiracy. Two-and-a-half years ago, the House Intelligence Committee (the so-called “Nunes Memo”) reached the same conclusion. [The latest] report is like the mailman who delivers a draft notice years after the war is over. Most of the wild accusations against Trump were based on the fabricated dossier composed by ex-British spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Their goal was to smear Trump with phony Russian information in advance of the 2016 election. In other words, Trump didn’t collude with Russia to unduly influence the election. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats did.” Keep reading more from the right below:

On the Left: Senate Intelligence ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) said that “At nearly 1,000 pages, Volume 5 stands as the most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date – a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections. … This cannot happen again.” Writing for Mother Jones, David Corn and Dan Friedman echo Warner’s statement, saying the “three-year probe links Paul Manafort to Russian intelligence and finds Trump’s campaign helped Vladimir Putin’s 2016 attack.” Corn and Friedman say the report “is full of revelations and findings that make clear that there is no Trump-Russia ‘hoax’ and that Trump and his campaign aided and abetted Moscow’s assault on American democracy and sought to exploit it.” One of the report’s most conspicuous examples is Paul Manafort, who was a senior Trump campaign official for about five months in 2016. According to the report, Manafort posed a “grave counterintelligence threat” due to his Russian connections. Corn and Friedman say, “The report details his extensive dealings during the campaign with a former business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, who the committee describes as a ‘Russian intelligence officer.’ (Special counsel Robert Mueller characterized Kilimnik as an ‘associate’ of Russian intelligence.) The committee puts it bluntly: ‘Kilimnik likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services.'” This is why, Corn and Freidman argue, “the FBI and CIA were right to be alarmed by contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign… and that the bureau was justified in opening up an investigation in mid-summer 2016.” In conclusion, the ‘report includes redacted information that is directly relevant to Russia’s interference in the 2020 election.’ So the American public is not being given information regarding the security of the 2020 election and Putin’s ongoing effort to assist Trump. Without that—even after nearly 1,000 pages—the whole story is still not being told.” Keep reading more from the left:  

Flag This: Words matter so much. Our intro was much shorter today because even the introductory phrasing of the report by different outlets can impact the lens through which readers approach the subject. For example, here is how the Associated Press and National Review framed the findings:

  • Associated Press: “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 that 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.”
  • National Review: “The Senate Intelligence Committee released the fifth and final volume of its report on the Russia investigation on Tuesday, in which it found that Russia “took advantage” of the Trump team’s “relative inexperience in government, opposition to Obama administration policies, and Trump’s desire to deepen ties with Russia to pursue unofficial channels through which Russia could conduct diplomacy.” However, the report concludes that the Trump-campaign did not “collude” with Russian operatives to win the 2016 election. The committee also found that the FBI gave too much “credence” to the unverified Steele dossier, which was used to obtain a warrant to surveil Trump’s then-national security adviser Carter Page.”

These descriptions of the report are both kind of saying the same thing, but at the end of the day they’re hinting at something completely different. It’s actually infuriating because unless you are going to take the time to read the 996-pages of the report you need to rely on one of these outlets or others to boil down the major points. From our perspective, this latest report doesn’t look great for Trump. It looks like he surrounded himself with some shady people. At the same time, there are certain members of the intelligence community whose missteps look dubious. For example, Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer, will plead guilty to falsifying a document used to obtain a FISA warrant on former Trump-campaign adviser, Carter Page. The fault of both sides and the media’s desire to pick and choose what suits their respective narratives leaves the American people worse off. It drives division and mistrust, all just a few months before our next election. It’s an embarrassing display by everyone in Washington, the politicians and the journalists who cover the debauchery of both sides. The American people deserve better.