G.O.P.-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia

A nearly 1,000-page report confirmed the special counsel’s findings at a moment when President Trump’s allies have sought to undermine that inquiry.

WASHINGTON — A sprawling report released Tuesday by a Republican-controlled Senate panel that spent three years investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election laid out an extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians, including at least one intelligence officer and others tied to the country’s spy services.

The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, totaling nearly 1,000 pages, drew to a close one of the highest-profile congressional investigations in recent memory and could be the last word from an official government inquiry about the expansive Russian campaign to sabotage the 2016 election.

It provided a bipartisan Senate imprimatur for an extraordinary set of facts: The Russian government disrupted an American election to help Mr. Trump become president, Russian intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary.

The report portrayed a Trump campaign that was stocked with businessmen with no government experience, advisers working at the fringes of the foreign policy establishment and other friends and associates Mr. Trump had accumulated over the years. Campaign figures, the report said, “presented attractive targets for foreign influence, creating notable counterintelligence vulnerabilities.”

Like the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who released his findings in April 2019, the Senate report did not conclude that the Trump campaign engaged in a coordinated conspiracy with the Russian government — a fact that Republicans seized on to argue that there was “no collusion.”

But the report showed extensive evidence of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin — including a longstanding associate of the onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom the report identified as a “Russian intelligence officer.”

The Senate report was the first time the government has identified Mr. Kilimnik as an intelligence officer — Mr. Mueller’s report had labeled him as someone with ties to Russian intelligence. Most of the details about his intelligence background were blacked out in the Senate report.

Mr. Manafort’s willingness to share information with Mr. Kilimnik and others affiliated with the Russian intelligence services “represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” the report said.

It also included a potentially explosive detail: that investigators had uncovered information possibly tying Mr. Kilimnik to Russia’s major election interference operations, conducted by the intelligence service known as the G.R.U.

Democrats highlighted Mr. Kilimnik’s potential ties to the interference operations in their own appendix to the report, noting that Mr. Manafort discussed campaign strategy and shared internal campaign polling data with the Russian and later lied to federal investigators about his actions.

“This is what collusion looks like,” Democrats wrote.

Their assertion was a sign that even though the investigation was carried out in bipartisan fashion, and Republican and Democratic senators reached broad agreement on its most significant conclusions, a partisan divide remained on some of the most politically delicate issues.

The report is an exhaustive look at the various ways that the Kremlin’s intelligence services exploited ties to the Trump campaign to help carry out a stealth attack on American democracy. By focusing on the Russian actions as a national security threat, the Senate investigation differed from the Mueller inquiry, which examined whether there was evidence to charge anyone with specific crimes.

The Senate investigation found that two other Russians who met at Trump Tower in 2016 with senior members of the Trump campaign — including Mr. Manafort; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son — had “significant connections to Russian government, including the Russian intelligence services.”

Links between the Kremlin and one of the individuals, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, “were far more extensive and concerning than what had been publicly known,” the report said.

The report’s findings about Mr. Kilimnik and other Russians in touch with Trump campaign advisers confirmed an article in The New York Times from 2017 that said there had been numerous interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence in the year before the election. F.B.I. officials had disputed the report.

Though there was no evidence of any agreement between the Russians and the Trump campaign to work together, there was clear coordination, said Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats and is a member of the Intelligence Committee.

“The Russians were doing things to disrupt American democracy and help the Trump campaign and the Trump campaign was doing things to amplify and utilize what the Russians were supplying,” Mr. King said in an interview. “There may not have been an explicit agreement but they were both consciously pursing the same end, which was the election of Donald Trump. And for the Russians, the extra benefit was disrupting American democracy.”

The president and his allies have long tried to discredit the government investigations into the 2016 election as part of a “witch hunt” intended to undermine the legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s stunning election. Since the release of Mr. Mueller’s report, Attorney General William P. Barr and numerous Republican senators have recast the president as the victim of politically motivated national security officials in the Obama administration.

Releasing the report less than 100 days before Election Day, lawmakers hoped it would refocus attention on the interference by Russia and other hostile foreign powers in the American political process, which has continued unabated.

Members of Mr. Trump’s own party led the Intelligence Committee’s work. Much of the investigation was overseen by Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, but he temporarily stepped aside as the chairman of the panel in May because of a federal investigation into stock sales he made before the coronavirus pandemic began rattling the United States. He was succeeded by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, though Mr. Burr voted to endorse the report’s conclusions.

The report could have partisan benefits for Democrats, who were using their convention this week as a platform to portray Mr. Trump as unfit and incapable of being president. Andrew Bates, a spokesman for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., said the report showed “the Russian government intervened in 2016 to help Donald Trump get elected and to undermine our democracy. Donald Trump welcomed it with open arms. They are working toward the same goals again this year, and Trump refuses to reject their assistance.”

President Trump called the report “a hoax,” but a White House spokesman said it helped confirm what the president and his allies had long said — “that there was absolutely no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“This never-ending, baseless conspiracy theory peddled by radical liberals and their partners in the media demonstrates how incapable they are at accepting the will of the American people and the results of the 2016 election,” said the spokesman, Judd Deere.

The report is the product of one of the few congressional investigations in recent memory that retained bipartisan support throughout. Lawmakers and committee aides interviewed more than 200 witnesses and reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents, including intelligence reports, internal F.B.I. notes and correspondence among members of the Trump campaign. The committee convened hearings in 2017 and 2018, but most of its work took place out of public view.

The report suggested that Mr. Manafort was compromised by his financial ties with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs, who themselves were connected to Mr. Kilimnik, the Russian intelligence operative.

It cited Mr. Manafort’s ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch described as a “proxy” for Russian state and intelligence services who claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money. And it described at length Mr. Manafort’s relationships with a cluster of pro-Russia oligarchs in Ukraine, who had paid him tens of millions of dollars as a political consultant in Ukraine.

“Manafort conducted influence operations that supported and were a part of Russian active measures campaigns, including those involving political influence and electoral interference,” the report said.

Before, during and after he was forced out as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, the report said, Mr. Manafort offered inside information and assistance to these Russian-aligned interests. Mr. Kilimnik was Mr. Manafort’s intermediary with both Mr. Deripaska and the Ukrainian oligarchs, according to the report. It recounted how he briefed Mr. Kilimnik at an August 2016 meeting on the Trump campaign’s strategy to defeat Hillary Clinton, describing efforts in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota and the margins by which Mr. Trump might win.

The report also shed new light on the interaction between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks — and between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. WikiLeaks, which released tranches of stolen Democratic emails that helped damage Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, not only played a clear role in the election interference but also “very likely knew it was assisting a Russian intelligence influence effort,” the report said.

The Intelligence Committee sought to track calls between Mr. Trump and Roger J. Stone Jr. — an adviser to the Trump campaign who was in contact with Guccifer 2.0, the online pseudonym for Russian intelligence operatives dumping the Democratic emails — in an effort to discover what Mr. Stone might have told Mr. Trump about the hacked emails.

In written answers to Mr. Mueller, Mr. Trump said he could not recall discussing WikiLeaks with Mr. Stone, a response challenged in the Senate report. “The committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone’s access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions,” the report said.

Last month, Mr. Trump commuted a prison sentence Mr. Stone had received after he was convicted on seven felonies of obstructing a congressional investigation that threatened the president, his longtime friend.

The committee sent a letter last summer to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington suggesting that Trump campaign advisers may have illegally made false or misleading statements to congressional investigators conducting the panel’s inquiry, according to four people with knowledge of the letter, which was first reported by The Los Angeles Times.

The committee said in the letter that Mr. Trump’s onetime chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and his former campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis may have committed a crime by lying under oath, and they cast doubt on the testimony of Donald J. Trump Jr. and Mr. Kushner. Prosecutors never filed charges.

Mr. Barr has appointed a criminal prosecutor, John H. Durham, to review the actions that intelligence and law enforcement officials took in 2016 to better understand the Kremlin’s interference campaign and interactions between Russians and Trump campaign advisers. Last month, Mr. Barr told a congressional committee that he was determined “to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus ‘Russiagate’ scandal.”

The Justice Department’s independent inspector general has found that law enforcement officials had sufficient basis to open the Russia investigation and acted without political bias.

But the Senate report did criticize the F.B.I., saying the bureau should have done more to alert higher-level officials at the Democratic National Committee that their servers may have been infiltrated by Russian hackers.

It also criticized the bureau’s handling of the so-called Steele dossier, a compendium of rumors about purported Trump-Russia links compiled by Christopher Steele, a British former intelligence agent. The bureau used some of Mr. Steele’s information in applications to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

The Senate report nonetheless endorsed the F.B.I.’s decision to investigate Mr. Page. “Page’s previous ties to Russian intelligence officers, coupled with his Russian travel, justified the F.B.I.’s initial concerns about Page,” it said.

The report portrayed the dossier as shoddy and criticized the F.B.I.’s vetting of Mr. Steele as “not sufficiently rigorous or thorough.”

At the same time, it dove into one of the main subjects of the dossier — whether the Russian government has compromising material on Mr. Trump from his past business dealings in Moscow. The report explicitly said it “did not establish” that the Russian government obtained any compromising material on Mr. Trump or that it tried to use such materials as leverage against him.

It did, however, spend pages describing Mr. Trump’s relationships with women in Moscow during his trips there starting in the mid-1990s, when he began looking for sites to build a Trump Tower. Mr. Deere, the White House spokesman, did not comment on those details in the report.

According to the report, Mr. Trump met a former Miss Moscow at a party during one trip in 1996. After the party, a Trump associate told others he had seen Mr. Trump with the woman on multiple occasions and that they “might have had a brief romantic relationship.”

The report also raised the possibility that, during that trip, Mr. Trump spent the night with two young women who joined him the next morning at a business meeting with the mayor of Moscow.

Reporting was contributed by Charlie Savage, Sharon LaFraniere, Julian E. Barnes, Michael S. Schmidt, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner.


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