FBI director James Comey appeared today at an open congressional hearing to answer questions about ongoing FBI and Justice department investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Comey appeared in tandem with Admiral Mike Rogers the head of the NSA which is America’s secretive code breaking and electronic surveillance agency.
The pair of them fielded some five hours of intense and at times highly partisan questioning from Republican members many of whom who wanted to turn the proceedings into a discussion about leaks of information from intelligence agencies, while the Democrats sought to place on record questions about possible collusion between Russian leaders and members of Donald Trump’s campaign team during the recent election.
FBI director Comey and Admiral Rogers of the NSA both denied President Trump’s recent claims that he had been wiretapped by the previous Obama administration saying there was no evidence at all to support such a suggestion. Admiral Rogers specfically denounced Trump’s additional suggestion that Obama had enlisted the help of the British spy agency GCHQ to carry out surveillance on him. He said that such a move would have been completely illegal and would also have violated the decades old ’Five Eyes’ treaty for joint cooperation on signals intelligence between USA/UK/Canda/Australia/New Zealand.
The real eyebrow-raising moment came when FBI Director James Comey disclosed that the ongoing investigation into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 US election was also looking into possible links between Moscow and members of Donald Trump’s election team. Comey refused to be drawn on which individuals were being investigated but he did indicate that this was a complex and lengthy enquiry that was unlikely to be concluded in the near future.
“The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” he said.
“That includes, investigating the nature of any links between associates of the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaigning the Russian effort.”
An ope-ed piece also published today in The Independent by Kim Sengupta spells out why this may yet lead to President Trump’s impeachment.
According to this article, in July of 2016, the former MI6 British intelligence officer Chris Steele sent a memo to the FBI warning them that Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine
Four days later Mr Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, officials involved in his campaign having already allegedly asked the Republican Party’s election platform to change the wording of a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.
Mr Steele claimed the Trump campaign was taking this path because it was aware that the Russians were hacking Democratic Party emails. The same day that Mr Trump spoke about Crimea, he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The issue of the mysterious sale in January of a 19.5% share in the giant Russian energy consortium Rosneft was also raised and read into the record by Democrat committee members. FBI Director Comey declined to be drawn on this question, but did not deny that the FBI were investigating possible ‘gold seam’ financial links of this type as part of the ongoing investigation.