FBI Director James Comey during Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing. (C-SPAN)
Add a new chapter to the Russia-2016 election story. For the first time in public, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the federal law enforcement agency is investigating possible Russian interference in the presidential race and potential links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, Vox reports.
“[The FBI is] 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,” Comey said Monday during testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in the first public hearing on Russia’s possible efforts to influence the election. At his side was Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency.
According to The New York Times, Comey added that though it is unusual for the FBI to confirm or deny ongoing investigations, sometimes probes are discussed when disclosure is in the public interest. “This is one of those circumstances,” he said.
In addition, Comey stated that the FBI had no evidence to support Trump’s claim that President Obama had him wiretapped.
Though Comey’s testimony contradicts statements Trump has made, any collusion by his presidential campaign with the Russians remains unproved.
Comey’s comments were a direct rebuke to President Trump, who has long tried to argue that concerns about potential Russian involvement had been ginned up by Democrats for political gain. Comey is now effectively saying his own boss was misleading the American public, and that a formal criminal probe is indeed underway.
It’s important to note that there is still no evidence — as even Democratic critics have been careful to note — that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to harm Hillary Clinton and help win the White House.
Trump shared his thoughts on the hearings and investigation via Twitter:
But the clip took Nunes and Rogers’ response out of context, a point Democrats were quick to point out.
Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut, later read Trump’s tweet to Comey and Rogers and asked them to correct the record.
“I asked you whether the intelligence community had undertaken any sort of study to determine whether Russia interference had any influence on the electoral process and I think you told me the answer was no,” Himes said, referring to questions earlier in Monday’s hearing.
“That’s correct,” Comey said.
“I’ve got a tweet from the president an hour ago,” Himes said, reading the tweet. “That’s not quite accurate, that tweet?”
After saying he hadn’t “been following anyone on Twitter” during the hearing, the FBI director reaffirmed the agency did not study whether Russian interference affected the outcome of the 2016 election.
“It’s hard for me to react to that, let me just tell you what we’ve said is. We’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact, because it’s never something we’ve looked at,” Comey said.
“So it’s not too far of a logical leap, that the assertion that you have told the Congress that there was no influence on the electoral process, is not quite right,” Himes asked.
“It certainly was not our intention to say that today, because we do not have any information on that subject,” Comey replied. “That’s not something that was looked at.”