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What We Learned From the Comey Hearing

 

You can break down the news from Monday’s hearing with FBI Director James Comey into two categories: 1) Big things we already knew but needed confirmed 2) Smaller, but previously undisclosed details.

Testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers confirmed the following three items.

1) The FBI is investigating whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Here is the excerpt from Comey’s opening statement:

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

2. President Donald Trump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower is not true. Comey told the committee:
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. 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. The department has no information that supports those tweets.
3. The British intelligence agency GCHQ did not assist in tapping Trump Tower, Rogers testified. 

There were also a handful of smaller revelations from Monday’s hearing that are also worth noting.

1. Comey said the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign begin in late July.

2. Russian intelligence officials used “some kind of cut-out” or go-between when dealing with Wikileaks.

 

 

3. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence sent a letter to Rogers and Comey on March 15 seeking a list of how many U.S. persons’ identities, whose communications were caught up in interceptions, had been disseminated by the NSA to a broader group within the intelligence community from June 2016 to June 2017. Rogers said he replied to the committee on March 17 and indicated they were compiling such a list. This is in line with the Republicans’ laser-like focus, demonstrated at the hearing, on finding out (and punishing) who leaked Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s intercepted phone calls with the Russian ambassador to journalists. Throughout the hearing, most of the Republicans on the committee demonstrated little interest in the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.

This post will be updated as needed when the hearing concludes. 

Image: Drew Angerer/Getty

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About the Author

is the deputy managing editor of Just Security and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. Previously, she was a senior reporter covering the Pentagon for Foreign Policy. Follow her on Twitter (@K8brannen).