The FBI is actively investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible cooperation from President Donald Trump’s campaign, agency director James Comey confirmed.
The existence of an investigation isn’t a surprise, but Comey’s announcement Monday is the first time the FBI has acknowledged an active case. The FBI typically does not comment on active investigations, but the Russian actions targeting the U.S. election represents an “unusual” case, he told members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
Comey told lawmakers he couldn’t comment more on the investigation, but he said the FBI is looking into possible contacts and cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The FBI is looking into “the nature of any links” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, he said.
U.S. intelligence agencies are confident that Russia directed hacks into the Democratic National Committee and campaign officials for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Leaked emails were released by WikiLeaks and other websites during the 2016 campaign.
During the hearing, Comey also shot down Trump claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in New York City during the presidential campaign. The FBI and the Department of Justice have “no information that supports those tweets” by Trump in early March, Comey said.
“We have looked carefully inside the FBI” for evidence of an Obama wiretapping campaign against Trump and found nothing, Comey added.
Meanwhile, the intelligence community remains confident the Russians coordinated the election hacking campaign, Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, told lawmakers Monday. The Russian government has repeatedly denied interfering in the presidential campaign.
But Rogers and Comey were silent on the question about whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to damage Clinton’s campaign. Republicans noted there is no evidence connecting the Trump campaign to the Russian government, but Democratic members of the committee tried to connect the dots.
In an extraordinary 17-minute statement, Representative Adam Schiff laid out a timeline of meetings between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election season.
Carter Page, a former national security advisor for Trump, visited Moscow in mid-2016 and reportedly discussed moving the campaign in a pro-Russia direction, Schiff said. Trump campaign officials also met with Russian officials during the Republican National Convention.
Later, Michael Flynn, former national security advisor for Trump, and Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, denied contact with Russian officials before they were outed in the press, Schiff said. And Trump campaign operative Roger Stone had contact with WikiLeaks and supposed DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0, Schiff said.
“Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence?” Schiff said. “Yes, it is possible, but is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected, and not unrelated.”