White House stands ground after Russian Federation probe confirmed, says no 'collusion'

Pauline Gross
March 20, 2017

The South Carolina Republican was questioning FBI Director James Comey during the House Intelligence Committee's hearing as part of its investigation into Russian interference with the USA election. Comey confirmed for the first time that the FBI is investigating Russia's influence on the 2016 USA election, including any "links" between Moscow and Trump campaign officials.

SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE - The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is conducting its own investigation.

Most of all, the opening of the congressional inquiry on Monday took the USA deeper into uncharted territory, an investigation into whether a presidential election campaign actively cooperated with a foreign adversary to win, and whether the beneficiary of that intervention was now seeking to cover up that collusion. Their tactics were to try to keep the focus of their questions on the leaks of classified information from the investigation, speculating on which Obama administration officials could have been responsible, and even raising the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing the leaks. Russian Federation denies it attempted to interfere in the November 8 presidential vote. Comey and Rogers deflected many questions about specific parts of the probe or surveillance activities, saying they could not publicly discuss sensitive information.

Several members asked repeatedly about leaks - who told the media about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with the Russian government?

During the hearing, Comey also rebutted President Trump's tweets that the Obama administration ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower during the campaign. Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, chairman of the committee, has said that rooting out those leakers is a priority.

Trump began the day with Twitter posts denying any collusion with Russian Federation and criticising leaks of classified information about the investigation.

Ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also stressed in his statement that he has seen no evidence to back the accusation, calling it "slanderous".

The admission opens the possibility that figures associated with the Trump campaign team were being examined for their links with Russian Federation, but were not necessarily the subject of intelligence surveillance - and certainly not "wire-tapping", as the President has claimed.

However, Mr Schiff said the material offers circumstantial evidence that United States citizens collaborated with Russians to influence the vote. Trump has also deflected attention to the release of information, saying the Federal Bureau of Investigation should focus on investigating that.

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"The FBI has no evidence to support those tweets", Mr Comey revealed.

The director said he wouldn't give any more details because of the ongoing investigation.

Democrats listed those Russian connections and others as they painted Trump as a candidate who adopted pro-Russia views and courted Russian interests.

Rep. Trey Gowdy used the House Intelligence Hearing Monday to accuse Obama administration officials, including the former president, of leaking classified information with no proof.

Sen. Bob Casey, the Pennsylvania Democrat, posted that this tweet from Trump proved that "every attempt from @POTUS to distract from legitimate Russian Federation [questions] makes the need for independent commission/special counsel all the more clear". "There is direct evidence, I think, of deception and that's where we begin the investigation".

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that the President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation personally ordered a covert effort to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances and aid Trump.

Comey and Stone-who, of course, had been sitting there the entire time and didn't know about the tweet-had to hear it a few times before denying Trump's characterization of their remarks.

He has, however, signed letters seeking related information, and he was among the first lawmakers to call for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from Russia-related investigations because of his contacts with Kislyak. He was accused by Democrats of lying under oath when he testified at a January confirmation hearing that he had "no communications with the Russians" before it emerged that he had met Moscow's ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak during the campaign.

Other reports by GizPress

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