The Director of the FBI, James Comey publicly confirmed on Monday that an investigation into Russian interference in the U.S presidential election was open and ongoing and also whether there are possible links between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Moscow.
Mr. Comey said that it was unusual for the F.B.I. to confirm or deny the existence of any investigations, but that in unusual circumstances when it is in the public interest, the bureau will sometimes discuss such matters.
“This is one of those circumstances,” he said.
“The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey 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.”
Comey said that he would not be able to speak about any of the specifics of the investigation taking place as it is still open and ongoing.
“I know that is extremely frustrating to some folks, but it is the way it has to be for reasons that I hope you and the American people can understand,” he said. “The FBI is very careful in how we handle information about our cases and about the people we are investigating.”
This is the first time that the FBI has officially confirmed that the purview of the investigation included President Trump’s possible ties with Russia, confirming months of occasional leaks to the media.
However, President Trump has repeatedly denied any links between his presidential campaign and the Russian government.
In a very dramatic hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey, also said that the Russian President Vladimir Putin had a clear preference for whom he wanted to see as the next president and it was definitely not the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Under questioning from Rep. Mike Conaway, FBI Director James Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, said nothing has changed since they issued their Jan. 6 report on Russian interference in the election.The report found that senior Russian officials, including Putin, wanted to undermine the U.S. democratic process, hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump’s campaign.
“They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her and help him,” Comey said, adding that officials had reached that conclusion by December.
“Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was that he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much,” Comey said.
During the meeting before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey also publicly addressed for the first time President Trump’s allegations that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Towe during the 2016 election. Comey said there is “no information that supports” the president’s claims.
“I have no information that supports those tweets,” Comey said. “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.”
Regarding the issue of possible interference from the Russian government in the 2016 U.S presidential election, Comey was asked whether the bureau had yet uncovered anything to support such a conclusion. He responded by saying that he would not be able to comment until the probe was concluded – something he said would not happen quickly.
He said: “All I can tell you is that we are investigating whether there was any collusion or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.”