World

Comey confirms Russia links probe

FBI Director James Comey yesterday confirmed that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation, and the first public confirmation of an investigation that began last summer, came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign.

He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case. “This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Under questioning from the committee’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff, he also contradicted a series of tweets from Trump that declared the Republican candidate’s phones had been ordered to be tapped by President Barack Obama during the campaign.

“I have no confirmation that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. The same was true, he added, of the Justice Department.

He also disputed allegations that British intelligence services were involved in the wiretapping.

Comey was the latest government official to reject Trump’s claims, made without evidence, that Obama had wiretapped him during the campaign.

Devin Nunes, a California Republican and chairman of the committee, also rejected them earlier in the hearing.

Trump took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary 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 as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

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

Yesterday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

Though Comey would not discuss specific evidence, he went far beyond his testimony from a hearing in January, when he refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia.

His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements on the Trump campaign or Russia.

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