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House panel’s initial report says no collusion with Russia



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  • WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have completed a draft report concluding there was no collusion or co-ordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, a finding that pleased the White House but enraged Democrats who had not yet seen the document.

    After a yearlong investigation, Texas Rep. Mike Conaway announced Monday that the committee has finished interviewing witnesses and will share the report with Democrats for the first time Tuesday. Conaway is the Republican leading the House probe, one of several investigations on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

    “We found no evidence of collusion,” Conaway told reporters, suggesting that those who believe there was collusion are reading too many spy novels. “We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment in taking meetings. But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings or whatever, and weave that into sort of a fiction page-turner, spy thriller.”


    Conaway previewed some of the conclusions, but said the public will not see the report until Democrats have reviewed it and the intelligence community has decided what information can become public, a process that could take weeks. Democrats are expected to issue a separate report with far different conclusions.

    In addition to the statement on co-ordination with Russians, the draft challenges an assessment made after the 2016 election that Russian meddling was an effort to help Trump. The January 2017 assessment revealed that the FBI, CIA and NSA had concluded that the Russian government, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, waged a covert influence campaign to interfere in the election with the goal of hurting Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and helping Trump’s campaign.

    House Intelligence Committee officials said they spent hundreds of hours reviewing raw source material used by the intelligence services in the assessment and that it did not meet the appropriate standards to make the claim about helping Trump. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the intelligence material.

    Conaway said there will be a second report just dealing with the intelligence assessment and its credibility.

    The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement soon after the GOP announcement, saying it stood by the intelligence community’s findings. DNI spokesman Brian Hale said the office will review the findings of the committee’s report.

    According to Conaway, the report will agree with the intelligence assessment on most other details, including that Russians did meddle in the election. It will detail Russian cyberattacks on U.S. institutions during the election and the use of social media to sow discord. It will also show a pattern of Russian attacks on European allies — information that could be redacted in the final report. And it will blame officials in President Barack Obama’s administration for a “lacklustre” response and look at leaks from the intelligence community to the media.

    It will include at least 25 recommendations, including how to improve election security, respond to cyberattacks and improve counterintelligence efforts.

    Democrats have criticized Republicans on the committee for shortening the investigation, pointing to multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia and saying they have seen far too few witnesses to make any judgment on collusion. The Democrats and Republicans have openly fought throughout the investigation, with Democrats suggesting a coverup for a Republican president and one GOP member of the panel calling the probe “poison” for the previously bipartisan panel.

    The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, suggested that by wrapping up the probe the Republicans were protecting Trump. He called the development a “tragic milestone” and said history would judge them harshly.

    Republicans “proved unwilling to subpoena documents like phone records, text messages, bank records and other key records so that we might determine the truth about the most significant attack on our democratic institutions in history,” Schiff said.

    The report is also expected to turn the subject of collusion toward the Clinton campaign, saying an anti-Trump dossier compiled by a former British spy and paid for by Democrats was one way that Russians tried to influence the election. Conaway did not suggest that Clinton knowingly co-ordinated with the Russians, but said the dossier clearly “would have hurt him and helped her.”

    He also said there was no evidence that anything “untoward” happened at a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and Russians, though he called it ill-advised. Despite a promise of dirt on Clinton ahead of the meeting, there’s no evidence that such material was exchanged, he said.

    The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating the Russian intervention, is expected to have a bipartisan report out in the coming weeks dealing with election security. The Senate panel is expected to issue findings on the more controversial issue of co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia at a later date.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee, also investigating the meddling, is expected to release transcripts soon of closed-door interviews with several people who attended the 2016 meeting between the Trump campaign and Russians. It’s unclear if the Judiciary panel will produce a final report.

    The congressional investigations are completely separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, which is likely to take much longer. It has already resulted in charges against several people linked to Trump’s campaign.


    Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

    Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press

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    ‘Life-altering consequences:’ Edmonton busker jailed for assaulting man



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  • EDMONTON — A judge has sentenced a busker to 18 months in jail for attacking a man he thought had swiped some of his change.

    The assault left Donny Crier, 41, a quadriplegic.

    Court heard Allen Dakota Cardinal was playing his guitar inside a light rail transit station in downtown Edmonton last April.

    Crier was dancing nearby with a friend who had dropped some money onto a blanket that Cardinal was using to collect donations.

    Court was told Crier picked up some of the money and gave it to his friend, who then returned it to the blanket.

    Soon after, Cardinal started fighting with Crier and, when Crier turned to walk away, Cardinal punched him in the back of the head, sending him onto the train tracks.

    A police officer and passerby helped pull an unconscious Crier onto the platform and out of the way of an oncoming train.

    Crier woke up in hospital to discover he had an irreversible spinal injury.

    Cardinal, 32, pleaded guilty in November to aggravated assault.

    Provincial court Judge Greg Lepp said during his sentencing decision Thursday that Cardinal didn’t intend to put Crier in a wheelchair, but violence should never be a solution when someone feels they’ve been wronged.

    “It can — and in this case did — have life-altering consequences,” said Lepp. “Mr. Crier … needs constant care and will for the rest of his life.”

    The judge said Cardinal deserved a three-year sentence, but he took into account the time Cardinal had already spent in custody.

    Crier, sitting in his wheelchair outside court, disputed that he had tried to take money from Cardinal.

    He said he wasn’t happy with the sentence. The Crown had asked that Cardinal, who has two prior assault convictions, serve six to eight years behind bars.

    “He gets out. He’s walking,” said Crier. “I’m still in a wheelchair.”

    The Canadian Press

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    Mounties make arrest in 2015 death of mother in northern Manitoba



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  • WINNIPEG — RCMP have charged a man with second-degree murder 2 1/2 years after a woman’s body was found in an isolated area on a remote Manitoba reserve.

    Crystal Andrews of the Gods Lake First Nation was 22 when she disappeared after a social at a community club in November 2015. Her body was discovered in the woods a day later. RCMP said the mother of two died after a serious assault.

    “There is a lot of mixed emotions and feelings within my community. There is a sense of relief … but I am sure there is a lot of anger and frustration,” Gods Lake Chief Gilbert Andrews said after the charges were announced Thursday.

    Michael William Okemow, who is 37 and also from Gods Lake, was arrested earlier this week in Winnipeg.

    In the days following the discovery of the body, Okemow was arrested on unrelated charges. However, people suspected his involvement in the killing and were critical about how long the investigation was taking, Chief Andrews said.

    It has been difficult for the community of about 1,500 to move forward without any answers, the chief said, particularly since the 2013 killing of 15-year-old Leah Anderson in Gods Lake remains unsolved. Many people felt the RCMP were not taking the investigations seriously, he said.

    Crystal Andrews’s fiancé, two children and mother sat quietly, occasionally wiping tears from their eyes, as RCMP Chief Supt. Mark Fisher announced the arrest at a news conference.

    Fisher said officers conducted more than 200 interviews and sent DNA collected at the scene to labs for testing. He said he hopes the young woman’s family can get some closure now that there has been an arrest.

    “Charging the man … won’t bring her back, but it is one way we can honour her memory,” he said. “She is not being forgotten.”

    Gods Lake, about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, is one of many communities across Canada in a state of trauma that still need to heal, said Sheila North, the grand chief who represents First Nations across northern Manitoba. More work must also be done to strengthen relationships with RCMP, she added.

    “We still have over 1,200 cases of murdered and missing (Indigenous) women across Canada and most of them are in Manitoba,” she said. “I think there is still a lot more work ahead for all of us.”

    Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

    Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misspelled the first name of Crystal Andrews and said she was 23.

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