The nearly 1,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee's report has concluded that Moscow "engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence" the 2016 presidential election, a claim which Russia has already resolutely denounced as groundless.
Besides this, the document emphasises the role of ex-Trump aide Paul Manafort, who allegedly opened the door "for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on the Trump campaign". However, Kevin Downing, one of Manafort's lawyers, said Tuesday that the data classified at the request of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team "completely refutes whatever the Intelligence committee is trying to surmise", as quoted by ABC News.
When asked about the newly released report, Donald Trump responded on Tuesday that he didn't read it and reiterated that he had “nothing” to do with Russia.
Nothing But Political Stunt Ahead of November Vote
"This is nothing but a political move by Democrats to discredit President Trump", presumes David Woodard, a Clemson University political scientist and former political consultant for the GOP. "On the week of their political convention, it is not unusual to discover that the Democrats are pulling skeletons from the grave to attack the president. They’re avoiding issues and using unprovable allegations".
It appears that three years, millions of taxpayer dollars, and over 200 interviews clearly "wasn't enough to satisfy partisans in Washington seeking any excuse to weaken the faith in our Democracy", notes Anthony Angelini, a GOP political consultant, emphasising that "Trump was already, overwhelmingly vindicated by the Mueller Report".
"As for the effect of the Senate's investigation on the 2020 election, this, like all aspects of the Russiagate scandal, will serve as a Rorschach Test. Democrats will latch on to the evidence of 'continued' Russian interference from 2016 to 2020 in order to delegitimise any Trump victory. Republicans will latch on to the evidence of 'unjustified credence' within the FBI to claim a bureaucratic corruption scandal", Angelini observes, adding that Americans would probably see this more as vindication for Trump than an indictment of him.
Likewise, the Senate Intelligence Committee's new opus failed to impress Richard Vatz, a distinguished professor of rhetoric and communication at Towson University: according to him, the lengthy report has provided zero evidence of collusion between President Trump and Russian intelligence, just like the earlier Mueller probe.
"When the Senate Intelligence Committee devotes the extensive time and effort to investigate a significant and substantial charge, they must produce some significant headlines to justify their efforts", the professor points out.
According to Vatz, it appears that the effect "of their significant-sounding implicit but unsupported findings" will be nil in an unbiased observer’s opinion.
"The public is past the collusion accusations", he underscores. "An American expression is relevant here: the horse has left the barn. The findings will merely intensify the Trump-haters' hate for Trump and the Trump supporters' perception that 'Here we go again'".
Mueller Probe Left Many Questions Unanswered
The Senate panel's report appears to be especially unconvincing given that Special Counsel Mueller's probe did not find any evidence of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, echoes Tom Switzer, executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies, an Australian libertarian think tank.
"As for the absurd charge that Trump is Putin’s puppet, bear in mind the following US policy decisions since early 2017: Washington has expanded NATO, strengthened sanctions on Moscow, supplied the Ukrainian military with lethal weapons, boosted aid to Baltic countries and launched missiles (twice) against Syria’s Assad regime", he remarks.
To answer the question why the issue is again making headlines, one should bear in mind the timing of the release, which occurred just a few months before the November election, the scholar notes.
"The answer is that many Democrats and their media mates have never accepted Trump’s shock election victory in 2016", Switzer opines. "By regurgitating the discredited Russia probe, though, Trump’s opponents are showing their motivated bias".
According to the scholar, the repeatedly circulated Russiagate narrative is unlikely to nix Trump's chances of winning in November. However, Switzer does not rule out the incumbent president's defeat: "Indeed the polls and the pundits point to a comfortable Joe Biden victory", he remarks.
Still, "if Trump shocks the conventional wisdom again" and wins, he should double down on finding out the root of the Russiagate narrative, according to the think tank director.
"That would include an investigation into why and when precisely a US intelligence and law-enforcement agency came to spy on a presidential campaign", Switzer highlights. "Just last week, a former FBI lawyer [Kevin Clinesmith] was charged with doctoring an email to justify a surveillance warrant against a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page".
One might also wonder what the role of Fusion GPS - the opposition research firm that Democrats used to flog dirt about Trump - was, the think tank director notes. "And what about former British spy Steele’s notorious dossier, supposedly based on Russian sources? Would there have been any surveillance warrants and ambush interviews for Trump aides if the dodgy Steele dossier had never existed?" he asks rhetorically.
According to Switzer, the FBI's apparent biased approach towards Trump as they kicked off Operation Crossfire Hurricane to probe the alleged "Trump-Russia collusion" also triggers a lot of concerns.
The Mueller report shied away from these questions, opening the way for renewed attempts "to resurrect the 'Russiagate' corpse", Switzer notes.
"After all, the American people are entitled to find out why US law enforcement officers abused power and why this sorry episode should not be allowed to happen again in America", he concludes, emphasising the importance of the investigation into the investigators, currently being conducted by US Attorney John Durham.