FBI confirms probe into possible Trump campaign-Kremlin links
Blow to president over Russia scandal Comey says no evidence for Obama wiretap claim
James Comey has confirmed that the FBI is probing possible links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin, an unprecedented public acknowledgment that pits the top US law enforcement agency against a sitting president.
Mr Comey, the FBI director, also said the bureau had “no information” that supported tweets written by Mr Trump contending that his predecessor, Barack Obama, was“wire tap ping” his campaignbefore the November election.
The two assertions before the House intelligence committee are a severe setback to the White House’s efforts to put the mounting scandal surrounding Mr Trump’ s ties to Russia behind it.
Although Mr Comey’s statements largely confirm what many in Washington had already assumed, the imprimatur of a public confirmation by the FBI gives the allegations against Mr Trump new credibility. Mr Comey said the bureau started the investigation in July, three months before the election.
Mr Trump has denied his aides had links to Russian officials, calling such reports “fake news”. In a series of tweets just before Mr Comey appeared on Capitol Hill, Mr Trump insisted there was “no evidence” of collusion between his campaign and Russia, blaming the accusations on Democrats looking for “an excuse for running a terrible campaign”.
“Nothing has changed. Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm there is no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion and there is no evidence of a Trump-Russia scandal,” the White House said in a statement.
But Mr Comey told Congress the FBI continued to examine “whether any crimes were committed”. He said the probe“includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any co-ordination between the campaign and Russia’ s efforts ”.
He said Russia had sought to disrupt the democratic process and the campaign of Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump’s rival, while aiding his campaign — a goal Moscow believe sit helped achieve.
Mr Trump has attempted to steer attention to the unsubstantiated allegations that Mr Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower, going so far as to repeat allegations that GCHQ, the UK electronic surveillance agency, was complicit in the operation.
Admiral Mike Rogers, the National Security Agency head who was also appearing before Congress, rejected the claims, saying he agreed with an angry GCHQ denial that the allegations were “utterly ridiculous”.
“It would be expressly against the construction of the five eyes [intelligence sharing] agreement that has been in place for decades ,” Mr Rogers said.
The House intelligence committee probe is one of several into Russian interference in the election. Mr Comey could not tell the committee when the FBI investigation would end.
James Comey: the imprimatur of a public confirmation by the FBI gives the allegations against Mr Trump new credibility