March 23, 2017

House Intelligence Committee's Russia Hearing

20 March 2017, 10:47 | Darnell Patrick

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"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", Comey told members of the House Intelligence Committee. "They're also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe", he said on "Fox News Sunday".

Last week, during a visit to the Oval Office by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Trump had joked that "at least we have something in common" - a reference to Edward Snowden's intelligence leaks in 2013, which revealed United States eavesdropping on the German leader's phone in 2010.

The two directors were invited to testify by Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the House committee, and Adam Schiff, the panel's top Democrat. "However, it's still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates". Trump campaign officials also met with Russian officials during the Republican National Convention.

That announcement answers a huge question that has overshadowed the story of whether anyone in Trump's orbit may have actively colluded with Russian intelligence officials to help boost his campaign and hurt Hillary Clinton.

"But it is also possible, maybe more than possible" that it isn't a coincidence, Schiff said.

"The stakes are nothing lesss than the future of liberal democracy, " Schiff said. The British government objected and the Trump administration pledged not to use the claim again.

Observers say both allegations have diverted attention from the Trump administration's other policies and progress with political appointments.

US intelligence agencies are confident that Russian Federation directed hacks into the Democratic National Committee and campaign officials for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Prior to the hearing, President Trump fired off several tweets attacking the investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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It will be interesting to see if anything new comes from today's hearing. "This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!" he said in a series of tweets, referring to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Mr. Comey refused to say whether someone did try to get a FISA warrant to surveil Trump Tower.

"We have looked carefully inside the FBI" for evidence of an Obama wiretapping campaign against Trump and found nothing, Comey added.

Trump began the day with Twitter posts denying any collusion with Russian Federation and criticising leaks of classified information about the investigation.

Michael Flynn, a Trump campaign adviser who went on to be his national security adviser, was paid more than $US65,000 by companies linked to Russian Federation in 2015, including an American branch of a cybersecurity firm believed to have ties to Russia's intelligence services, according to congressional investigators. The Russian government has repeatedly denied interfering in the presidential campaign.

For Comey, Monday's hearing represents another unusually high-profile role for the Federal Bureau of Investigation director.

Since Trump made the disputed claims, he and aides have sought to redefine the terms of his accusations.

And it's still possible that House Republicans pass their Obamacare repeal/replace legislation, giving Trump a boost to his agenda.

Late last July, Comey said, the agency began investigating contacts between Trump's associates and the Russian government, which is believed to have stolen Democratic party emails and leaked them through intermediaries Wikileaks and Guccifer.

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