The House Intelligence Committee has spearheaded the investigation into whether Russia interfered with the United States presidential election. With numerous interviews and testimonies expected, it could be a few more days or weeks before a conclusion is met.
However, the much-anticipated hearing for the week of March 20th included testimony from FBI Director James Comey. It was his first appearance since Trump alleged that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, says Politico.
Comey’s testimony would reveal to the House panel if President Obama did wiretap Trump during the election. The hearing will also feature National Security Director Admiral, Mike Rogers, who will discuss allegations that Russia had interfered in the election.
What Was Confirmed
During the live hearing, Comey did confirm that the Federal Bureau of Investigations was looking into a possible link between Trump’s campaign and Russia to influence the outcome of the election. However, Comey and Rogers both made it clear that there is no evidence to Trump’s allegations that his tower was wiretapped, and that the claims remain unsubstantiated now.
The Republican chairman of the committee also told the room that there was no evidence of wiretapping, but they did not rule out other forms of surveillance that may have been used instead. There was no physical presence of a wiretap at Trump Tower. However, the committee did note that there could be other forms of surveillance done on Trump Tower as well as on Trump associates.
Furthermore, there was no evidence that the president’s allegation carried any weight. Comey stated that the president could not order a wiretap unilaterally in the first place.
FBI Investigation Started in July
While the FBI is still investigating Russian activities, Comey did confirm that there was an investigation already underway in late July, during the peak months of the election. However, Comey could not put a timeline on the investigation or estimate when it would start to wrap up.
During his questioning, Comey also made it clear that the FBI found that Russia wanted to help Trump win the election, and that they stick by that conclusion. He further stated it was an “easy judgment” for the rest of the intelligence community.
The Flynn Leak Saga
The NSA chief agreed that Flynn’s leak did hurt National Security, but that Flynn’s leak more so damages the efforts to authorize a digital spying tool through section 720 of the Foreign Intelligence Act, which expires at the end of 2017. Rogers stated that letting these programs expire would impact the insight the agency needs for successful investigations.
GOP Lawmakers Were Unkind to Witnesses
Anyone that took the stand to testify found themselves facing a harsh panel of GOP lawmakers. Lawmakers often questioned if leaking information to the press was illegal. Comey made it clear that the only way Flynn’s personal communications were released to a member of the press was if they were directly given to the press.