FBI Director James Comey announced on Monday that his bureau’s probe of suspected Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election also includes looking into alleged ties between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.
In testimony before the House intelligence community, Comey provided few other details about the inquiry and which individuals might be targets. He did note that the probe was initiated late July of last year.
“I have been authorized by the DOJ 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,” Comey said in his opening remarks before the panel.
The FBI Director did not provide a timetable for when the investigation would conclude.
In another blow to the White House, both Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers informed the committee that they found no evidence of President Trump’s claims on Twitter that he was put under surveillance by the Obama administration
“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said.
During Monday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the President stands by his claims, and that an investigation is still underway.
“I think there’s a lot of areas that still need to be covered,” he claimed. “There’s a lot of information that still needs to be discussed.”
Spicer also claimed that he was not aware of any individual within the campaign currently under investigation. He went on to downplay Comey’s admission during the hearing of an ongoing investigation, and referred reporters to comments made by former Obama administration officials, including those made by previous Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, stating there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“At some point, take ‘no’ for an answer,” Spicer chided the reporters in the room.
During the intelligence hearing, Director Comey was careful to not identify specific individuals who might be subjects in the ongoing investigation. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), however, didn’t hesitate to make a number of public allegations.
Schiff’s opening statement included assertions made by a former British intelligence officer in a now infamous, but unsubstantiated, dossier.
He also brought up people within the Trump orbit meeting with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, and the alleged involvement of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page in a financial deal involving Russian gas company Rosneft.
Schiff then mentioned longtime political operative and Trump associate Roger Stone. Stone reportedly had communications with Wikileaks and the alleged entity behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, Guccifer 2.0.
The revelation that a counterintelligence investigation is underway, long reported through anonymous sources in various media outlets, didn’t appear to faze Republicans on the committee. GOP lawmakers instead pressed Comey and NSA Director NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers about leaks coming out of the intelligence community.
Questioning from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) veered into calling for the prosecution of journalists, referring to the leak of intelligence regarding a phone call between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
The director declined to comment on Gowdy’s suggestion, but did criticize a lot of recent reporting on the Trump-Kremlin connection.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” Comey said. “I’ve read a whole lot of stuff — especially in the last two months that’s just wrong.”