Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee say they are standing by one of the key conclusions in their report on Russian election interference that questioned whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to help Donald Trump get elected President.
On Monday, Putin said at a news conference alongside Trump in Helsinki, Finland, that he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election over Hillary Clinton, while denying that Russia meddled in the election.
The comment raises questions about the finding of the House Intelligence Committee Republican report on Russia, which was released in April, which disputed the intelligence community’s January 2017 assessment on Putin’s intentions.
“The Intelligence Community Assessment judgments on Putin’s strategic intentions did not employ proper analytic tradecraft,” the report stated, adding that the committee “identified significant intelligence tradecraft failings that undermine confidence in the ICA judgments regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic objectives for disrupting the U.S. election.”
That view has not changed in the wake of Putin’s comments, several committee Republicans said.
“Absolutely, no doubt,” Rep. Pete King of New York said of the GOP report, saying he stands by it based on the intelligence he’s seen and because he says he doesn’t believe Putin.
Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican, also said he thought Putin was lying on Monday by saying he wanted Trump to win.
“I don’t believe that for a second. I don’t believe Putin is being honest,” Stewart said. “I think Putin is doing what he does, and that’s how can he weaken this President, ironically. How he weakens this President is saying, ‘Yeah, this is my guy.'”
Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican who led the committee’s Russia probe, defended the panel’s final report, saying Putin’s intentions were not clear back then.
“The record clearly shows that we didn’t know his thinking during that time frame. The record shows it could have gone either way,” Conaway said. “I think that disclosure (on Monday) was done self-serving from his standpoint.”
At a news conference Tuesday, Ryan was asked if the House GOP made a mistake on that key finding. But Ryan said the GOP-led committee found the Intelligence Community employed poor methodology in reaching that conclusion, referring additional questions to the committee.
“They were concerned about was the trade craft that was conducted by our intelligence community. When we reviewed the IC we also believed there were some mistakes made by the IC,” Ryan said. “But let’s be very clear, just so everybody knows: Russia did meddle with our elections.”
The finding questioning whether Putin was trying to help Trump win puts the House Intelligence Committee Republicans at odds with the Intelligence Community. Senior officials in the Trump administration have testified before Congress that they also support the conclusions reached in the January 2017 assessment.
The House GOP report is also at odds with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which released its own report earlier this month reviewing the intelligence assessment and found “no reason” to dispute the tradecraft or the conclusions of the Intelligence Community.
But Trump has frequently questioned the Intelligence Community’s assessment, including on Monday, in which he sided with Putin over US intelligence on 2016 election interference.
House Intelligence Republicans say they disagreed with Trump’s comments about Russian meddling, but they argue that Russia was trying to sow discord into the US election system, as opposed to electing Trump.
“I’ve made clear the President is wrong on that,” King said of his stance on Russian election interference. “There is no evidence of collusion but there is overwhelming evidence of meddling by the Russians. … Those are two separate issues and he’s got to realize that.”
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, ignored questions from a CNN reporter Tuesday about Putin’s comments on favoring Trump.
“You know the rules,” Nunes said when asked for comment.