Archive for Monday, March 20, 2017

FBI probing possible links between Russia, Trump associates; director disputes Trump’s tweets

FBI Director James Comey, left, accompanied by National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

FBI Director James Comey, left, accompanied by National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

March 20, 2017, 11:07 a.m. Updated March 20, 2017, 4:46 p.m.

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— The FBI is investigating whether President Donald Trump's campaign associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats.

In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump's claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they've seen no evidence to support it.

The revelation of the investigation of possible collusion with Russians, and the first public confirmation of the wider probe that began last summer, came in a remarkable hearing by one branch of government examining serious allegations against another branch and the new president's election campaign.

Tight-lipped for the most part, Comey refused to offer details on the scope, targets or timeline for the FBI investigation, which could shadow the White House for months, if not years. The director would not say whether the probe has turned up evidence that Trump associates may have schemed with Russians during a campaign marked by email hacking that investigators believe was aimed at helping the Republican defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"I can promise you," the FBI director vowed, "we will follow the facts wherever they lead."

Comey for the first time put himself publicly at odds with the president by contradicting a series of recent tweets from Trump that asserted his phones had been ordered tapped by President Barack Obama during the campaign.

"With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI," Comey said. The same was true, he added, of the Justice Department.

His confirmation of the Russia-links investigation was striking given the FBI's historic reluctance to discuss its work. But Comey said the intense public interest in the matter — and permission from the Justice Department — made it appropriate to do so.

Comey said the collusion inquiry began last July as part of a broader probe into Russian meddling in American politics, meaning Trump was elected president as associates remained under investigation for possible connections to Russia.

Clinton allies on Monday contrasted Comey's silence during the campaign with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton's email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails. Many Democrats blame Comey's public updates with stoking worries about Clinton's trustworthiness and turning voters against her.

Comey acknowledged that "some folks may want to make comparisons to past instances" where he and other officials were more open, but he said those were about concluded investigations.

In the current case, it's not clear how long it will take for the FBI to decide if a crime was committed, but counterintelligence investigations are known for being complicated and time-intensive — and for frequently concluding without charges. Comey would not commit to a timetable.

Regardless of the outcome, the investigation is unquestionably an unwelcome distraction for an administration that has struggled to move past questions about ties to Russia. The White House tried anew Monday to distance itself from two former senior members of Trump's team, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who have been under scrutiny for foreign contacts.

"The faster you can get to the bottom of this, the better it's going to be for all Americans," Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who chairs the committee, told Comey.

The hearing quickly divided along partisan lines, Democrats pressing for details on the status of the FBI's investigation while Republicans focused on news coverage and possible improper disclosures of classified information developed through surveillance.

Comey is the latest government official to reject Trump's claims, made without any evidence, that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, his campaign headquarters. Rep. Nunes rejected them earlier in the hearing.

Comey testified along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also disputed allegations that British intelligence services could have been involved in such wiretapping. The White House last week pointed to a report of British involvement in an attempt to bolster the president's claim. The move only angered an ally.

Trump took to Twitter before Monday's hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Clinton instead.

"The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!" Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning's cable news.

The president continued to tweet throughout the hearing, creating a unusual public conversation between the embattled president and his FBI director.

After Trump tweeted that the FBI and NSA had told Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process, Comey disputed that description. The FBI has offered no opinion and has no view and no information on the potential impact on the election because that's not something the bureau has looked at, he said.

The president also claimed that Comey had said there was no evidence of collusion between his aides and Russia, though Comey made no such thing.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton's campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats' computers in a bid to help Trump's election bid.

The panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, outlined a chronology that he said suggested frequent and troubling contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries.

"Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than a entirely unhappy coincidence?" he asked rhetorically. "Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated."

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 months ago

Sigh.......I am going to throw this one to someone else. Dorothy?? Let's hear it!!!!!

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months ago

What can I say. Trump immediately tweets more lies about what Comey said. The man is a. insane b. a liar c. manipulative?

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/mar/20/donald-trump/trumps-false-tweet-nsa-fbi-said-russia-did-not-inf/

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months ago

He is cutting departments and programs that contribute to Meals on Wheels, which isn't operating with enough money as it is. Sure, they may struggle along. Sure, maybe some states will step up their financial support of the program, but it will hurt. And sure, even some Republicans are not going to allow this to happen. Most of the cuts Trump is making is just like Brownback, programs that help the disabled and elderly. Brownback changed the program that assisted the disabled and elderly by privatizing it, and now it's a shambles. I see no evidence of any empathy or caring from the radical wing of the Republicans.

Also, I understand all Trump did was submit a budget, with no analysis of affects on the economy, the people of the US or anything. Presidents never submit budgets like that. It's as if they just took a red pen and slashed here and there without looking at the impact. Now he may have run his businesses that way, a real businessman would not, but he had enough money bail himself out, so he probably could just do things on a whim.

Michael Kort 7 months ago

NOOOOOOOOOOO ! ! !.......SAY THAT IT AIN'T SOOOOOOOOOO ! ! !

How could we have been lied to by Trump & and his cabinet secretaries like Flynn, Sessions and his 'DARK PARADE' of political operatives with ties to Russia ? ? ?

They lie to Congress Under Oath, .......they lie to the American People,........liars are liars and there is no telling what the NEXT GREAT LIE will be about with Donald J Trump ?

It will no doubt be a Whopper !...........and not the kind from some burger place !

MerriAnnie Smith 7 months ago

Trump lies????

Dam... I... I'm crushed...

Matt Brown 7 months ago

Well both James Clapper and Eric Holder lied under Oath, which has been well documented. Are we developing a new set of standards, and righteous indignation for this administration? Or I get it! This is the part. When they go low we go high! Classic Double standard. How soon we conveniently forget.

Patrick Pritchard 7 months ago

Well documented by who? Fox news or Breitbart?

Matt Brown 7 months ago

By Congressional transcripts of the testimony, what else do you need?

Matt Brown 7 months ago

It might be this part after the Snowden release.

In an apology letter to lawmakers, however, Clapper said he gave the “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the call-record collection.

Michael Kort 7 months ago

Honoring The Ninth Commandment is not one of Donald Trumps goals in life......that is the one about 'not bearing false witness against your neighbor.'......like saying that Obama was really not an American Born Citizen for five years..... or Trump's latest diversionary lie.......... that Obama tapped his phones at Trump Tower .

Of course, when the ' King Donald The All Holy Messiah Version Of The Bible ' comes out, one can certainly imagine there will be changes made to the Ten Commandments,........ in order to ' Make The Bible Great Again ' ! ! !

MerriAnnie Smith 7 months ago

Exactly. The people he nominated are not going to go against Trump because they'll likely lose their jobs whether they are successful at getting him out or not.

Paul Youk 7 months ago

Three other words: Lock him up.

Bob Summers 7 months ago

Is this Comey, the Liberal Barney Fife of the FBI, that presented the dossier of Hillary Clinton crimes summating a "reasonable" person would not press charges against her?

Yeah. That's the one.

Patrick Pritchard 7 months ago

You have no idea what a reasonable person is Summers. You may go back to your cave.

Michael Kort 7 months ago

Wasn't it FOX where trump got the idea to lie about the wiretapping because some Trump friendly low life in disguise planted that story in the Fox Phony News so Trump could ham it up to the rest of the world about being wiretapped by the evil Obama ?....... LIE.

Trump is nothing but a drama queen who one minute talks about the phony media while indeed he is a huge beneficiary of media coverage of his outright lies to the American Public and Congress .

And how much valuable money and time will be spent by Congress and the FBI on his wiretap lies when that time and cost could have done something productive in our countries interests ?

Trump needs a new tv show.....a soap opera.....called 'THE DAYS OF TRUMPS LIES'

Episode # 1 ...Obama the foreign president ?.....LIE

Episode # 2....Mexico will pay for the wall ?.......LIE

Episode # 3......Obama wiretapped Trump Tower ?....LIE

Episode # 4.....My Secrete Tax Returns ! ! !....DECEPTION

Episode # 5....Killing PBS, BIG BIRD and down funding education because he supports education ?.....LIE

Episode # 6.....The war on disease research..... because he supports finding cures for illnesses ?......LIE

Episode # 7.......How to kill meals on wheels because he doesn't get one and it is better that the old die of Malnutrition and nobody uses it anyway ?....LIE

Episode # 8 Killing Meals on wheels so he can spend 3 million a weekend to fly to marologo in Air Force One....3 milion a weekend x 52 = Donald IS Making Himself Great Again ! ! ! Don't you just love it ?

But what about his making America Great Again ?........LIES REPEATED WILL BE BELIEVED ! .......and Trump is a mentally sick man !

We outspend everyone militarily,.....including the combined spending of the next six countries below us in military spending.........like Russia and China. .

MerriAnnie Smith 7 months ago

Trump said, before he was elected, if he's elected he'd make the Oval Office a reality show.

The only thing he hasn't lied about.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months ago

Actually they traced the first conspiracy theory suggestion to some stupid tin hat right wing radio guy, then Britefart picked it up, then Fox.

Shawn Herrman 7 months ago

He's the President of the United States, and I'm assuming you live in the US. We all had to suck it up through the last presidency. So maybe a different country for all the haters or suck it up and support our president. Seems to be working for Kaepernick....

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months ago

Why should I support a president who wants to eliminate Meals on Wheels? Not gonna happen.

Shawn Herrman 7 months ago

That would be terrible as I believe that is a very good program. Keep in mind most of the information we get is from fake news with their liberal spin.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/18/meal-on-wheels-trump-budget-proposal-cuts/99308928/

.

Patrick Pritchard 7 months ago

Hey, Donald, When will all these job be coming back from overseas? You know all the ones you and your friends shipped overseas. All I've heard about is some jobs already in the States not going overseas most of which were never slated to go overseas or to Mexico......which provides a net gain of zero. Did you go to the Sam Brownback School of Economics?

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