Comey, Director of the FBI, testified that a Russia-focused investigation is ongoing. He also stated that Trump’s wiretapping claims are unfounded.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence recently began hearings to investigate possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Today, FBI Director James Comey found himself at the center of numerous questions surrounding the elections, Trump, Russia, and his agency’s investigations into the matter.
Comey confirmed that the FBI was undertaking an investigation into Russian involvement in the election. Typically, he said, it is unusual for the FBI to confirm whether or not it is pursuing a particular investigation.
However, these are unusual times. Comey and his colleagues deemed this disclosure to be in the public interest. They were unable to disclose further details, though, citing security concerns around an ongoing investigation.
Investigating Ties Between Trump and Russia
The FBI isn’t just looking into the possibility of independent Russian interference, however. Comey stated that the bureau is also looking into potential ties between the Trump administration and Russian officials. This follows months of speculation centering on Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Both stated that they have no evidence that Russian attacks directly changed votes in the election. Rather, Putin is said to have ordered an “influence campaign” to pit voters against Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Numerous people in Congress and beyond have been concerned by connections between the Trump administration and Russia. Recent scrutiny on the issue has resulted in the resignation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the Russia investigation. Still, many are left with the growing sense that this is only the tip of the iceberg. According to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Committee’s senior Democrat:
"If the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history"
Wiretapping Claims Debunked
That was not the only big disclosure, however. Both Comey and Rogers stated that there was no substance to Trump’s claims of wiretapping. As you may recall, Trump claimed that President Obama had ordered surveillance of Trump. In particular, he claimed that Obama commanded agents to wiretap Trump Tower in New York City.
Trump even claimed that British intelligence did the actual surveillance work. GCHQ, the agency implicated in this claim, broke its traditional silence to denounce such claims as “utterly ridiculous”. Some worry that Trump’s claim may damage U.S. relationships with Britain, previously a longtime ally.
In response, Comey said, “I have no information that supports those tweets.” Regarding Trump’s claims of McCarthyism, Comey replied, ““I try very hard not to engage in any ‘isms’ of any kind, including McCarthyism.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), head of the Committee, admitted that Russia has a long history of interfering with countries. He also agreed that the wiretapping claims are unfounded. However, he expressed concern about other methods of surveillance deployed against Trump.
It’s difficult to pick out what’s true and what’s rhetoric. Now, at least, we know that the FBI is conducting an investigation into Russian prying. Furthermore, both the NSA and the FBI have come across no evidence of wiretapping.
What connections might the FBI’s investigation find? The more the public learns about Trump’s ties to Russia, the more it has a right to be concerned. Assuming there is no federal-level interference – and what an assumption, these day – the results of the investigation could be stunning.