Leading the U.S. House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway says he expects the report will confirm that the Russian government tried to influence the outcome in favor of President Trump but that its efforts didn’t change any actual vote results.
In an interview with the OA Editorial Board, the Midland Republican said investigators “are running out of people to interview” and will issue their report “sooner rather than later.
“The American people are tired of this investigation,” he said. “They just want to know what happened. We will issue a classified version for all members of Congress and then it will be declassified in the executive branch, which could take two weeks or a month. It will make some people mad and some happy.”
Adding that he will release the transcripts of interviews and other data along with findings and recommendations, Conaway said he is “trying to use as few adjectives as I can to say, ‘Here’s what happened.’”
“It’s clear from public testimony, Facebook and Twitter that the Russians attempted to affect the election by sowing discord and convincing folks to vote a certain way,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that they did not affect vote tallies.”
He said the states “are very jealous about the whole process,” but they may have to accept national reforms to circumvent future disruptions like seeing voters’ registration rolls scrambled by foreign computer hackers on election days.
Asked his view of partisan bitterness in Washington, Conaway said it has not weakened his dedication, but the vitriol is disturbing. “The House is downstream from the American people, so all that stuff is reflective of what’s going on back home,” he said.
“You cannot govern from either edge, the hard right or the hard left. America is a center-right country, but all the public discourse is at the extremes. The talking heads wake up each morning and ask how they can make people mad and get their ratings up.”
Becoming emotional, Conaway said, “I love the House.”
“Every time I see one of my buddies do something that’s embarrassing the institution, I say, ‘Stop doing those things. . .’”
Conaway said he has not suffered any ill effects from having been one of the representatives targeted during a June 14 mass shooting last year at an Alexandria, Va., ballpark.
Having seen a fellow congressman, a lobbyist, an aide, a policewoman and the gunman shot, the gunman fatally, Conaway saw a counselor to ascertain that he was OK. “I’m pretty good about compartmentalizing and was just going on about my life,” he said.
“The lady said, ‘You don’t have any symptoms.’ One reaction I didn’t anticipate was my wife Suzanne’s. I had left a message on her cell phone that early morning in Midland that everything was over and I was fine. I met her at the airport in Dallas, and she ran and jumped into my arms and held on and held on.”
As chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Conaway said the committee’s 110 hearings around the nation in the past three years have laid the groundwork for the 2018 Farm Bill to be approved by the House and Senate and signed by the president by the Sept. 30 deadline.
He said any SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) reforms will depend on a funding analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
Conaway also wants to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and restore Title 1 supports to cotton and milk, he said.
Conaway is up for re-election and will face Paul Myers of Midland in the Republican primary in March and then either Eric Pfalzgraf of Odessa or Jennie Lou Leeder of Llano in November.