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Comey Confirms FBI Is Investigating Possible Coordination Between Trump Campaign, Russia

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FBI Director James Comey (Left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers sit at hearing.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — along with several other congressional committees — has been investigating Russian attempts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

Now the committee is holding an open hearing on the subject, and FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers are both appearing as witnesses. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. ET. President Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations that he was wiretapped by then-President Barack Obama are also expected to come up.

Watch the hearing live and follow the live NPR news blog here

Hearing Highlights:

Final Word From Nunes: Speed It Up, Please

In the final moments of the hearing, Nunes called on Comey to conduct his investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia as quickly as possible.

The committee chairman noted that an investigation into the Trump campaign meant an investigation into major players in the U.S. government — people currently sitting in the halls of power. A counterintelligence investigation by the FBI into, for instance, the secretary of state — not to mention the president — casts a “cloud,” Nunes said.

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“The longer this hangs out here, the bigger the cloud is,” he said.

“I know that you’re not going to tell me whether or not you have any evidence [of coordination\ but I can tell you that we don’t have any evidence,” Nunes said. “If you have evidence, especially as it relate to people in the White House ... that would be something that we really should know about and know about quickly, because there is a big gray cloud that you have now put over people who have very important work to do to lead this country.

“The faster you can get to the bottom of this,” he said, “the better it’s going to be for all Americans.”

 

Trey Gowdy Pushes Comey On Question Of Leaks

In questioning Comey earlier in the hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., focused repeatedly on the question of leaks of classified information. Gowdy asked Comey whether a journalist reporting on that data might have committed a crime, and where the leaks might have originated.

He returned again and again to media coverage of former national security adviser Michael Flynn — conspicuously avoiding Flynn’s name and identifying him as an “American citizen” on most references. He asked how information about Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador could have been released.

At one point, Gowdy listed off names of people from the Obama administration, asking if they would have had access to the information that was apparently leaked.

Comey resisted discussing the issue at all, saying his commenting might appear to confirm that classified information had been leaked, which he was avoiding. He also pushed back against Gowdy’s list of specific names, noting that different people would have had access to that information.  

Gowdy briefly acknowledged the issue of Russian attempts to interfere with the U.S. elections, calling it important.


“Some of that may rise to a crime, some of it may not. … The felonious release of classified material is definitely a crime,” he said, an apparent defense of his choice to focus on leaks instead of Russian actions or possible campaign cooperation with Russia.

Comey: 'No Information That Supports' Trump Claim Of Wiretapping

Schiff asked Comey to respond to Trump’s first specific claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. The committee’s ranking member read Trump’s March 4 tweet in full:

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

 

“Was the president’s statement that Obama had his wires tapped at Trump Tower a true statement?” Schiff asked.

“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. He also said the same was true for the Department of Justice in general — that is, a close examination found no information that supported the claim of wiretapping.

As for the second half of the tweet, “I try very hard not to engage in any ‘isms’ of any kind, including McCarthyism,” Comey said to chuckles.

“No president could” unilaterally order a wiretap of anybody, Comey further confirmed.

Comey Confirms FBI Is Investigating Possible Coordination Between Trump Campaign, Russia

Comey told the committee that he can confirm the FBI is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, to look for possible coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts to influence the November election.

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” he said.

“As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed,” Comey said.

The FBI director noted that he’s not normally able to comment on ongoing investigations, but that “in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so.”  He said this was one of those cases, and that he was authorized to confirm the investigation existed, but not to provide any other information.