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March 14, 2018

BYRON YORK: House GOP delivers blow to Trump-Russia collusion story. Will others follow?

It has long been the key question of the Trump-Russia affair: Did Donald Trump’s presidential campaign collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election? Now, we have the first official, albeit partisan, answer.

“We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” said Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee Monday as they released findings from a 14-month Trump-Russia investigation.

GOP Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who formally oversaw the committee probe, said, “We found perhaps bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment in taking meetings.” But no collusion.

Committee investigators looked at the events often cited as evidence of collusion. They looked at the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign officials talked to a group of Russians who promised, but did not deliver, damaging information on Hillary Clinton. They looked at the activities of peripheral Trump advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. They looked at the allegations in the Trump dossier. They looked at all that, and they could not find a thread connecting events into a narrative of collusion.

“Only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings, whatever, and weave that into a some sort of fictional page-turner spy thriller,” Conaway said. “But we’re not dealing with fiction, we’re dealing with facts. And we found no evidence of any collusion, of anything that people were actually doing, other than taking a meeting they shouldn’t have taken or inadvertently being in the same building.”

The collusion question is the most contentious of the Trump-Russia investigation. Some Democrats have long said we know enough now to prove collusion. Indeed, just last month, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said, “There is already, in my view, ample evidence in the public domain on the issue of collusion if you’re willing to see it.”

When Republicans released their findings, though, Schiff did not mention collusion. . . .

Would-be believers in collusion could suffer another disappointment later this year when the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee releases its report. Shortly after the House findings were made public, the chairman of that committee, Sen. Richard Burr, told CNN he has not seen evidence of collusion in the more than a year his committee has been looking for it.

It’s as if the whole thing was invented out of whole cloth, to keep the Democrats’ troops riled up after Hillary’s unexpected and humiliating defeat.