Top 5 Takeaways from the Russia Intel Hearing
On Monday, March 20, FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rodgers testified in a rare public hearing with the House Intelligence Committee about what they know and what they want to know about the Russian government’s involvement in the U.S. election last year.
Throughout the hours-long hearing many things came to a head including President Trump’s claims that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, announcements on FBI investigations and confirmation that Russia did not interfere with the presidential election vote tallies.
Below are the top five takeaways from the hearing in detail:
FBI and Justice Department have “no information to support those tweets”
The first round of questioning gleaned the most information from Comey, especially on the topic of Trump’s wiretap claims.
Rep. Schiff walked Comey through each of President Trump’s tweets that said former President Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the election.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism.” Trump’s tweet said.
When asked about the tweets, Comey replied: “With respect to the President’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information to support those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”
FBI confirmed an investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, including collusion with Trump campaign
As part of Comey’s opening statement to the intelligence committee, he went ahead confirmed what a lot of people in the political world assumed, there is an investigation into the Russian government’s involvement in the election. He prefaced it by saying it is not the FBI’s usual practice to confirm investigations.
“As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters, but in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public’s interest, it may be appropriate to do so, as Justice Department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances,” Comey said.“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counter intelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 Presidential Election.”
Comey took it one step further and told intelligence committee members and those watching on television that this investigation would also look into connections between the Russian government and Trump’s presidential campaign.
“That includes investigating the nature of and links associated with any member of the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between Russia and the campaign’s efforts.”
FBI will not share much about the investigation
Directly after Comey confirmed the investigation, he told members of the committee that he would not and could not share many of the specifics in the investigation in such a public setting.
“We just cannot do our work well or fairly if we start talking about it while we are doing it,” Comey said.
He cautioned Congress and the public that they should not read too much into the FBI’s silence on certain matters concerning the case.
“I know speculation is a part of human nature, but it really isn’t fair to draw conclusions simply because I say that I cannot comment.” Comey said.
Intelligence officials do not believe Russia interfered in the tallying of votes
Early in the questioning, Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee chairman, asked Rodgers and Comey whether they had any evidence that Russia actually changed the vote tallies in key states.
Both men told Congress that there was no evidence that Russia meddling actually changed the votes.
Comey believes Russian interference will get worse in future elections
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen asked the men if they believed, now that the Russia hacking is public knowledge, that the Russians would interfere in elections in the future and Comey’s answer was simple but basically, yes.
“They’ll be back. They’ll be back in 2020, they may be back in 2018,” Comey said. “One of the lessons they may have drawn from this is that it was successful because of the chaos, division and discord and so doubt about this amazing country of ours and our democratic process. It is possible they are misreading that as, ‘It worked, and so we will come back and hit them again in 2020.’ I don’t know, but I think we have to assume they are coming back.”
Posted on Mar 21, 2017