FBI director, James B. Comey, publicly confirmed that the FBI is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with a covert Russian campaign to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.
Comey also came forward and said that the FBI has no information to back up Donald Trump’s ridiculous claims that he was “wiretapped” by President Obama.
In his opening statement at a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation was being undertaken “as part of our counterintelligence mission,” and that he could not disclose any details about it. Normally, he said, the FBI doesn’t confirm or deny investigations, but it can make exceptions in cases of major public interest.
Later in the hearing, Comey said he has “no information that supports” Trump’s allegation that President Obama ordered surveillance of his communications in Trump Tower during the campaign.
Comey added that courts grant permission for electronic surveillance, “carefully overseen,” and that “no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone.”
NBC News and other news organizations had reported the FBI’s counterintelligence probe, but Comey’s public acknowledgement of it opens a dramatic new chapter in a story that has bedeviled the Trump administration. Comey did not say how long the investigation might last, but experts say counterintelligence investigations can take years to reach conclusions.
Before the hearing, Trump argued in a series of tweets that “the Russian story” was “made up” by Democrats, and not a topic for serious inquiry. Comey’s disclosure of an ongoing investigation demolishes that argument.
Before Comey spoke, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, laid out a detailed rendition of public allegations involving former Trump aides Carter Page and Paul Manafort and their contacts with Russians.
He suggested that July and August of 2016 was a crucial period in the Russian interference campaign, because it marked the time when the Russians began orchestrating a series of leaks designed to embarrass Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.
Schiff then repeated a series of assertions from a dossier written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence operative who alleged that the Trump campaign engaged in a conspiracy with Russian intelligence officials.
“Here are some of the matters, drawn from public sources alone, since that is all we can discuss in this setting, that concern us and should concern all Americans,” Schiff said.
Later, he concluded, “Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.”
On Sunday, Rep. Schiff said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion,” while his Republican counterpart, committee chairman Devin Nunes, said he had seen no such evidence.
But Nunes has been clear that Trump’s wiretap allegation was not true.
“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No, there never was,” Nunes said on Fox News Sunday.
Nunes and other Trump supporters have said that Trump’s tweets should not be taken literally, but should be understood to reference general surveillance that may have captured the communications of Trump or some of his associates.
You can watch James Comey testify below.