FBI Director James Comey has confirmed in public that the FBI is investigating links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government – a stunning disclosure that law enforcement was probing whether there are ties between the Trump campaign and election hacking that may have helped the president win.
Comey announced the information – which has been reported for weeks but had lacked official public confirmation – during a high-stakes hearing conducted by the House Intelligence Committee.
Although he said he wouldn’t reveal classified information about the investigation, Comey backed up an intelligence community conclusion that the Kremlin wanted Donald Trump to win the election.
‘I think that was a fairly easy judgment for the (intelligence) community,’ Comey said. ‘Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed publicly that the FBI 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 dropped his bombshell by confirming the investigation at the top of a public hearing Monday, where he fielded questions from Democrats about Russia and from Republicans about potentially felonious leaking of classified information that ended up in the press.
‘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,’ said Comey.
Comey declined multiple efforts by lawmakers to get him to reveal whether specific individuals were being looked at as part of the probe, and explained that normal procedure is not to even confirm the existence of an investigation.
‘I know that is extremely frustrating to some folks, but it is the way it has to be,’ he said. He noted that the existence of an investigation doesn’t mean charges will be brought.
Top panel Democrat Adam Schiff of California spoke at length about a list of Trump campaign Russia ties, after pointing to what he called ‘circumstantial evidence’ of collusion with Russia over the weekend.
‘In early July, Carter Page, someone candidate Trump identified as one of his national security advisors, travels to Moscow on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech critical of the United States and other western countries for what he believes is a hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption,’ Schiff said, before bringing up the ‘dirty dossier.’
‘According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a former KGB agent and close friend of Putin’s. According to Steele’s Russian sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company.’
‘According to Reuters, the sale of a 19.5 percent share in Rosneft later takes place, with unknown purchasers and unknown brokerage fees,’ Schiff said.
‘Also, according to Steele’s Russian sources, the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks.’
Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers (right) arrive to speak during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign
‘The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share – policies which, even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass,’ he added.
Then he brought up Russia contacts by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and unofficial Trump advisor Roger Stone.
‘On August 8th, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor and self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech that he ‘has communicated with Assange,’ – a reference to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’ – ‘and that more documents would be coming, including an ‘October surprise.’
‘In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cutout Guccifer 2.0, and authors a Breitbart piece denying Guccifer’s links to Russian intelligence. Then, later in August, Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that John Podesta’s personal emails will soon be published. ‘Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel. #Crooked Hillary,’ Schiff said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer ripped the idea of collusion.
‘Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm that there is no evidence of a Trump Russia collusion. The Obama CIA Director said so, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence said so, and we take them at their word,’ Spicer said.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said: ‘For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.’
But Nunes said after the hearing he had ‘no idea’ who some of the names dropped by Democrats were – and that the one real crime that had committed had been the leak of classified information to the press.
‘I say that there’s been one crime that’s been committed and that’s the leaking of someone’s name,’ Nunes said after the hearing.
‘They brought up many characters today. I don’t even know who those people are. They have no affiliation. When I say they – the Democrats brought up all these cast of names. I don’t know who they are,’ Nunes told reporters.
Like Spicer, he dismissed Manafort, who got brought in to steady the campaign and shore up its delegate operation after the firing of original campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
‘Manafort I know, because I know for a short time he worked on the convention, but I don’t know the other people,’ Nunes said.
‘This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,’ Comey said.
Former Hillary Clinton advisors jumped on the news.
‘Russia probe that Comey confirmed was, as best we can tell, in effect before Nov 8. Fair to ask why he didnt think voters deserved to know,’ tweeted former campaign spokesman Brian Fallon.
Comey revealed in the final days before the election the existence of a renewed look into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Then two days before the election he said the investigation, which probed disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s emails, hadn’t turned up anything to change the outcome.