CEDAR CITY – While many in Washington may believe the U.S. president won favor with Moscow by colluding with the former Russian KGB, U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart still maintains “there is absolutely no evidence,” to prove that charge.
Speaking in front of a packed crowd at Southern Utah University Thursday, the Utah Republican addressed the ongoing accusations of collusion between President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. election.
“I’ve said, I’m not here to defend the president, we’re here to find the truth, but over the last of couple of months I’ve made the point that we’ve been looking at this for over a year and there is no evidence of collusion,” Stewart said.
The CIA, NSA and FBI reached the consensus in an intelligence report released in January, saying Putin ordered a cyberassault on the election with a “clear preference” for Trump.
Stewart, who has been a member of the House Intelligence Committee since 2015, said he has spent hours scrutinizing that report but does not agree with its assessment arguing Russia didn’t care who won the election.
He pointed to the erroneous reports released by the intelligence community prior to the Iraq War that concluded the country was harboring chemical weapons.
“I love the IC. They do incredible work,” Stewart said. “But once in a while they don’t get it right. And I’ll give you one more example, they told us there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and then we went in there and found out there weren’t. They do incredible work but they are not infallible.”
While he doesn’t doubt the Kremlin’s interference in the election, Stewart does not believe the Russians were responsible for the billionaire’s victory to the White House.
“There is no doubt they tried to meddle in our election, and they did it in various ways,” Stewart said. “But again, there is no evidence at all, zero, that they had access to the voting machines.”
The congressman said he remains unpersuaded that Russia’s intentions were to bolster Trump over his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Rather, he said, they thought she would win and wanted to “weaken her” in office.
Stewart touched on other intelligence issues, including the recent attempts by Kim Jong Un to intimidate the United States, assuring the group that the North Korean dictator “is not crazy” and “does not want to die.”
A former Air Force pilot for 14 years, Stewart criticized previous administrations for continuing to make idle threats through the years, allowing the country to build up its military weapons.
“There was a time (1990s) when we were planning and strategizing to stop him from developing nuclear weapons. That was our official policy,” Stewart said. “Were we successful? No, very clearly, we weren’t. We know he’s got a nuclear program. We know he’s got nuclear weapons. We know he’s got mobile weapons. So, we failed at that.
“Once failing at that, we said, we don’t let him build ICBMs capable of reaching the United States. Did we fail in that policy? Yes, we did – very clearly. That has been our stated policy for more than a dozen years now and we failed in that because he has developed missiles that are capable of reaching the United States.”
Stewart praised Trump for following through with the Syrian missile strike in April, adding that the action conveyed a message of strength to the world, specifically the 33-year-old Korean leader.
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