FBI Director James Comey confirmed for the first time Monday that the agency is investigating Russia‘s influence on the 2016 U.S. election, including any “links” between Moscow and Trump campaign officials.
“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,” Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing.
The FBI typically does not comment on ongoing investigations, especially those involving classified information, he said. Comey added that the Department of Justice gave him permission to do so under the circumstances.
The investigation began in July, Comey said. The FBI director said he cannot say more “about what we are doing and whose conduct we are investigating” because the investigation is ongoing and classified.
“We just can’t do our work well or fairly if we start talking about it while we’re doing it,” Comey said.
The U.S. intelligence community has accused Moscow of trying to influence the election, saying it initially wanted to derail then-candidate Hillary Clinton and then developed a preference for Trump. National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also testified Monday, said the agency stands by the intelligence community’s earlier report on Russian meddling and its level of confidence in the findings has not changed. But he added that he could not divulge information beyond what was released in an unclassified report.
Comey and Rogers deflected many questions about specific parts of the probe or surveillance activities, saying they could not publicly discuss sensitive information.
After Comey confirmed the investigation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted that Trump and the Justice Department should let the investigation go on without any “interference or political pressure of any kind whatsoever.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from probes related to the Trump campaign.
The Trump administration has denied that the president’s campaign cooperated with Russia before the election. Trump alleged earlier Monday that Democrats “made up and pushed the Russia story” to cover up the presidential election loss and argued that finding people who leaked information about his associates is “the real story.”
The top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee differed in public statements on the evidence of collusion Sunday. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told Fox News that he saw no information to show collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
However, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told “NBC’s Meet the Press” he saw “circumstantial evidence of collusion” and direct evidence of “deception.”
Both Rogers and Comey said they did not have evidence that Russia influenced vote tallying in key states that helped to decide the election.
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