Non-profit

Committee to Investigate Russia

Website:

investigaterussia.org/

Type:

Anti-Trump Administration Advocacy Project

Founders:

Rob Reiner

 

The Committee to Investigate Russia is a left-of-center non-profit founded in 2017 by actor, film producer, and longtime left-progressive activist Rob Reiner.[1] The Committee provided a left-of-center, anti-Trump perspective on Russia’s influence on America’s elections. Until its disbandment on March 29, 2019 after the issuance of the report of U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Committee’s operations were primarily limited to operating a website, InvestigateRussia.org, to aggregate news related to Russia’s election interference in the U.S. and research aggregation related to overall national security threats from Russia.[2]

The Committee’s Advisory Board included a variety of influential individuals representing perspectives hostile to President Donald Trump and his administration, such as Obama administration U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, and hawkish national security commentator Max Boot.[3] After it closed, the Committee left its archived website live for research purposes.

Mission

The Committee to Investigate Russia was a left-of-center news aggregator intended to help Americans “recognize and understand the gravity of Russia’s continuing attacks on our democracy.”[4] In addition to its flagship website at InvestigateRussia.org, its efforts included a “Daily Briefing” email subscription, a publicity campaign (including a featured CNN interview with Rob Reiner), and social media channels. As of June 7, 2020, the group’s Facebook page had 95,285 likes, and its Twitter profile had 69,800 followers.[5][6][7][8]

The content of InvestigateRussia.org focused on four key areas related to alleged Russian influence: key players in the alleged collusion, congressional investigations of the alleged collusion, timeline details, and history of allegations. Key players included President Trump and the President’s associates who had various connections and dealings with Russian and Ukrainian sources. Its timeline research targeted Trump-Russian connections, often associating Russian cyber-attacks with influence in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Finally, several articles framed Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in a negative light, often in association with Trump and his associates.

The Committee’s mainstreaming of alleged Russia collusion in the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign was primarily aimed at the general public as opposed to policymakers, politicos, or cultural leaders. Through utilizing a mix of government and media experts alongside Hollywood celebrities, the Committee helped “Russian collusion” become a featured part of stories in the entertainment world and across social media. For example, Morgan Freeman’s YouTube video for the organization’s website garnered more than 455,000 views.[9]

Controversies

A New York Post article released three days after the organization’s launch noted the Committee to Investigate Russia’s Advisory Board did not include any Russia experts.[10] Though technically accurate, the article overlooked notable former intelligence officials from the Obama administration, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Former acting director of the CIA Michael Morell.

Rob Reiner’s personal attacks on President Trump further served to create controversy for the Committee and its legitimacy. A vocal opponent of Trump’s presidency, Reiner declared Trump as “mentally unfit” to be president.[11] In a 2019 MSNBC interview, Reiner said he sought to expose Trump’s “criminality.”[12] In an October 27, 2017 Washington Post interview, Reiner claimed, “I don’t think he [President Trump] can learn anything.”[13]

The Committee also received criticism from left-of-center organizations for its aggressive approach to alleged Russian collusion. Former Center for American Progress blog ThinkProgress, which at the time of the Committee’s launch was a highly influential left-progressive publication, highlighted the exaggerated claims of alleged war with Russia and the lack of the Committee’s independent investigations into Russia. Reiner was also criticized for his political viewpoints. [14]

Fact-checking organization Snopes.com highlighted how Russian bots, social media influencers, and others rebutted the Committee’s creation and Freeman’s videos. Though it didn’t take a position on the Committee, Snopes used Russia’s response to the Freeman video as a case study about Russian influence on American politics.[15]

Financials

The Committee to Investigate Russia presented itself as a non-profit, requesting donations from readers and supporters. No Form 990 is publicly available under the name “The Committee to Investigate Russia,” and no current EIN number could be found on the IRS website.

Leadership

Actor and producer Rob Reiner served as the organization’s director. The full list of Advisory Board members remains publicly available at the Committee’s website.[16] Members included:

Max Boot, listed on the organization’s website as a military historian and foreign policy analyst, is known for his book The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right. He is also a columnist covering national security for The Washington Post.[17]

James Clapper was Director of National Intelligence for seven years in the Obama Administration.[18]

Evelyn Farkas is the Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia. In 2020, she ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in New York’s 17th district.[19]

General Michael Hayden is the Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. He is a retired U.S. military servicemember and listed as principal of The Chertoff Group, a security and risk management organization.[20]

Jeh Charles Johnson was U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security from December 23, 2013 to January 20, 2017 during the Obama Administration.[21] He was nominated by President Barack Obama following the resignation of Janet Napolitano.[22]

Michael Morell is a former Acting Director of the CIA. He is noted as “the only person who was both with President Bush on September 11th, when al-Qaida burst into the American consciousness, and with President Obama on May 1st, when Bin Laden was brought to justice.”[23]

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the center-right American Enterprise Institute. He also serves as a contributing editor to National Journal, The Atlantic, and is a BBC News election analyst.[24]

Leon Panetta is a former Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA in the Obama administration. He was also a White House Chief of Staff. He spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in support of Hillary Clinton, during which he was booed by supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).[25]

Charles Sykes, a conservative commentator who serves as editor-in-chief at The Bulwark, a nominally conservative site noted for its harsh criticism of the Trump administration, mainstream Republicans, and conservatism. Sykes is also an NBC/MSNBC contributor and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind.[26]

Clint Watts is a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, where he also serves as a Foreign Policy Research Institute Fellow. A former FBI Agent, Watts is also author of Messing with the Enemy, a book addressing social media in a world of hackers and terrorists.[27]

Former George W. Bush speechwriter and The Atlantic contributor David Frum helped Reiner launch the Committee.[28]

References

  1. “About Us,” The Committee to Investigate Russia, About Us. Accessed June 7, 2020.

    https://investigaterussia.org/about-us

    ^

  2. “Thank You,” The Committee to Investigate Russia. Accessed June 7, 2020. https://investigaterussia.org/media/2019-04-17/thank-you

    ^

  3. Ted Johnson, Variety, “Rob Reiner Helps Launch Committee to Investigate Russia,” September 19, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2020 https://variety.com/2017/politics/news/rob-reiner-david-frum-committee-to-investigate-russia-1202563293

    ^

  4. “About Us,” The Committee to Investigate Russia, About Us. Accessed June 7, 2020.

    https://investigaterussia.org/about-us

    ^

  5. Daily Briefing, March 29, 2019. Accessed June 7, 2020.

    https://us16.campaign-archive.com/?u=b98b72072486dea43d9ea082d&id=8d200c7f52

    ^

  6. CNN.com, “Rob Reiner: Russia has attacked our country,” September 19, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2020.

    https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/09/19/reiner-frum-launch-committee-to-investigate-russia-sot-newday.cnn/video/playlists/intl-europe/

    ^

  7. InvestigateRussia.org Facebook Page. Accessed June 8, 2020.

    https://www.facebook.com/InvestigateRussia/

    ^

  8. InvestigateRussia.org Twitter Page. Accessed June 8, 2020.

    https://twitter.com/InvestigateRU

    ^

  9. “Committee to Investigate Russia: War,” Committee to Investigate Russia YouTube Channel, September 18, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2020.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz9PNoecNxU&feature=youtu.be

    ^

  10. Leonid Bershidsky, “Why doesn’t the Committee to Investigate Russia have any Russia experts?” New York Post, September 22, 2017. Accessed on June 7, 2020.

    https://nypost.com/2017/09/22/why-doesnt-the-committee-to-investigate-russia-have-any-russia-experts

    ^

  11. “Trump Is ‘Mentally Unfit’ to Be U.S. President, Rob Reiner Says,” Variety YouTube Channel, December 13, 2017. Accessed on June 7, 2020.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGX4xfYyq_E

    ^

  12. “Rob Reiner On Using Superstars To Expose Trump’s ‘Criminality,'” MSNBC YouTube Channel, June 25, 2019. Accessed on June 7, 2020.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3uiyss2-Kw

    ^

  13. “Rob Reiner on Trump: ‘I don’t think he can learn anything,'” Washington Post YouTube Channel, October 27, 2017. Accessed on June 7, 2020.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fehz23oAAwc

    ^

  14. Casey Michel, “Hollywood’s ‘Committee to Investigate Russia’ goes off-script,” Think Progress, September 21, 2017. Accessed on June 9, 2020.

    https://archive.thinkprogress.org/morgan-freeman-russia-video-b51870701f1b/

    ^

  15. Bethania Palma, “Trolls, Bots, ‘Useful Idiots’ Attack New Committee Aimed at Exposing Propaganda Campaigns,” Snopes.com, September 21, 2017. Accessed June 9, 2020.

    https://www.snopes.com/news/2017/09/21/kremlin-trolls-bots-useful-idiots-russian-propaganda/

    ^

  16. “Advisory Board,” The Committee to Investigate Russia. Accessed June 7, 2020. https://investigaterussia.org/media/2019-04-17/advisory-board

    ^

  17. “Max Boot Byline Page,” The Washington Post. Accessed June 9, 2020.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/max-boot/

    ^

  18. Full biography available from Senate.gov website at https://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/d7b50e0c-6f70-417d-a8b6-5ab1000bb38a/the-honorable-james-r.-clapper-bio.pdf

    ^

  19. “Evelyn Forny election website,” EvelynForney.com. Accessed June 8, 2020.

    https://evelynforny.com/

    ^

  20. “Michael Hayden,” The Chertoff Group. Accessed June 9, 2020.

    https://www.chertoffgroup.com/team/michael-hayden

    ^

  21. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, 2013-2017,” Homeland Security. Accessed June 8, 2020.

    https://www.dhs.gov/jeh-johnson

    ^

  22. “Jeh Johnson,” Ballotpedia. Accessed June 8, 2020.

    https://ballotpedia.org/Jeh_Johnson ^

  23. “Experts” The Cipher Brief. Accessed June 8, 2020.

    https://www.thecipherbrief.com/experts/michael-j-morell

    ^

  24. “Norman J. Ornstein: AEI Profile,” AEI. Accessed June 8, 2020.

    https://www.aei.org/profile/norman-j-ornstein/

    ^

  25. Oliver Knox, “Leon Panetta scorches Trump at DNC, as crowd boos and chants, ‘No more war!'” Yahoo News, July 27, 2016. Accessed on June 8, 2020.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/leon-panetta-dnc-speech-trump-000000047.html ^

  26. [1] “About Us,” The Bulwark. Accessed June 9, 2020.

    https://thebulwark.com/about-us/ ^

  27. “Clint Watts Contributor Page,” Foreign Policy Research Institute, October 2019. Accessed June 8, 2020. https://www.fpri.org/contributor/clint-watts/ ^
  28. Daniella Diaz, “Reiner, Frum headline group to publicize Russia probes,” CNN, September 19, 2017. Accessed June 9, 2020.

    https://www.cnn.com/2017/09/19/politics/rob-reiner-david-frum-committee-investigate-russia-white-house/index.html ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Charlie Sykes
    Advisory Board
  2. Rob Reiner
    Founder
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