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House Speaker Paul Ryan says the intelligence community has presented no evidence that any Americans colluded or coordinated with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
But he declined to say if he had seen evidence that Trump campaign officials had communicated with Russians — a key distinction as investigations into Russian meddling in the election proceed in Congress.
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Ryan's comments came at a traditional breakfast with anchors and correspondents ahead of President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening.
"No one has ever showed us any evidence that any collusion had occurred between an American involved with the political system and the Russians,” Ryan said at the breakfast.
"[Jim] Clapper and [John] Brennan did a government-wide investigation from November through December. They did a scrub of everything — presented it all to us," Ryan said. "And that investigation told us what we already knew: The Russians were trying to meddle with our election. We all know that. There's nothing new with that."
He said congressional officials with access to the highest levels of intelligence had been presented with, among other intelligence, the dossier produced on President Trump's private life that included several salacious allegations that were not confirmed by U.S. intelligence.
"They did an exhaustive IC-community wide investigation, and brought us all the findings, even the oppo-research thing that they had in there that you guys all talked about," Ryan said.
But he refused to rule out the possibility that he had seen evidence of communication between Trump campaign officials and Russians. "I'm not going to get into those things," he said when asked if he was making a sharp distinction between collusion and coordination as opposed to communication.
Ryan said it was clear Russia was trying to meddle in the election. "Do I think that it affected the outcome? Not in the least," he said.
On domestic policy, Ryan also insisted the White House is still open to passing long-term entitlement reform — despite President Trump's promise not to touch Medicare and Social Security in the budget blueprint released Monday.
Ryan said he wants to change the system for younger people to help pay for the cost of retiring baby boomers. Pressed on how he could do that if the president had taken entitlement reform off the table, Ryan said: "I think that's an open question."
Asked to explain that comment, Ryan said he believes the administration is still open to adjusting benefits for people who aren't close to retirement.
"I don't think the administration is opposed to long term entitlement reform. The administration is opposed to changing benefits for people at or near retirement," Ryan said. "From all my conversations with the president he says, I don't want to change benefits for people at or near retirement and we agree with that."