Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, read those tweets to Mr. Comey, who sought to set the record straight.“We’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it’s not something we looked at,” Mr. Comey said, clarifying that the intelligence community is examining what Russia did to interfere with the election, not the impact of that interference.
Mr. Comey then added: “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today because we have no information on that subject.”
Comey revelation raises questions about Clinton email inquiry
Mr. Comey’s statement that the F.B.I. is investigating the Trump campaign is certain to raise comparisons to his disclosure in October that the bureau had discovered a new trove of Mrs. Clinton’s emails.
“Some folks made one of a comparisons to past instances where the Justice Department and the F.B.I. has spoken about the details of some investigations,” Mr. Comey said. “Please keep in mind that those involved with the details of completed investigations.
Our ability to share details with Congress and the American people is limited when those investigations are still open, which I hope makes sense. We need to protect people’s privacy. We needed to make sure we don’t get other people clues as to where we are going.”
Mr. Comey said that he had consulted the Justice Department about whether to disclose the existence of the investigation — something he had not done before he held a news conference in July to announce that there was not enough evidence to charge Mrs. Clinton with a crime.
Mr. Comey’s statements on Monday brought immediate criticism from Mrs. Clinton’s allies and former campaign officials. “In refusing to discuss an ongoing investigation, Director Comey is appropriately adhering to the Justice Department’s standards,” said Brian Fallon, the spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. “The question he has never satisfactorily answered is why he deviated from those standards so egregiously in Hillary Clinton’s case.”
Daniel C. Richman, a longtime confidant of Mr. Comey’s and a professor at Columbia University, defended Mr. Comey. “There is no fair comparison between announcing a material status change in an investigation that you publicly declared to be closed — in an announcement the public can be expected to rely on — and speaking about investigative moves, or non moves, in a covert national security investigation,” Mr. Richman said.
McCarthyism? Um, no.
Mr. Comey provided a rare moment of levity when asked if he believed the inquiry into Russian meddling and possible connections to the Trump campaign was a form of “McCarthyism.”
The question came during a stretch of questioning in which both he and Admiral Rogers unequivocally rejected claims by Mr. Trump that he was wiretapped during the campaign.As for McCarthyism, Mr. Comey’s reply was similarly definitive: “I try very hard not to engage in any ‘isms’ of any kind, including McCarthyism,” he said.
But unsubstantiated charges were leveled.
Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, who led the inquiry into Mrs. Clinton after the 2012 Benghazi attacks, seems to have turned into the Inspector Javert of intelligence leaks, with the president of the United States at his side. And who are they blaming? Much of the Obama administration — including former President Barack Obama himself.
Mr. Gowdy, in a question to Mr. Comey, asked: “Unauthorized dissemination is punishable by felony up to 10 years in federal prison?”“Yes, as it should be,” Mr. Comey said.Mr. Gowdy, who led the House Select Committee on Benghazi and helped expose Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server, asked if a series of people from the Obama administration had access to the intelligence information leaked: John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A.;
James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence; Loretta E. Lynch, the former attorney general; Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; Ben Rhodes, a former National Security Council official; and … Mr. Obama.He also listed a series of news reports from The New York Times and The Washington Post that detailed information gleaned from classified intercepts of calls between the Trump adviser Michael T. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
Mr. Gowdy concluded by asking: “I thought it was against the law to disseminate classified information. Is it?”“Yes, for sure,” Mr. Comey said. “It is a serious crime.”The president himself chimed in on the issue via Twitter, again hinting that the leaks came straight from his predecessor:
The president also joined the Republican effort to steer the hearing away from Russian interference to the danger of classified leaks.
Nunes: ‘There was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower’
The first hearing of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election opened with Representative Devin Nunes of California, the committee’s chairman and a Trump ally, trying to split the difference between his hawkish view of Russia and his desire to deflect accusations that Mr. Trump’s campaign benefited from Russian interference in the election — or, worse, possibly colluded with Moscow.
Shortly after the witnesses — Mr. Comey and Admiral Rogers — took their seats, Mr. Nunes opened by stating that Russia had a long track record of aggressive actions against its neighbors, and that “its hostile acts take many forms aside from direct military assaults.”Russia “has a long history of meddling in other countries’ election systems and launching cyber-attacks on a wide range of countries,” he said.
“The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee.”But in a nod to a claim pushed by Mr. Trump that he was wiretapped, Mr. Nunes said he wanted to know if there was improper surveillance of campaign officials. And he said it was important to find out “who has leaked classified information.”
“Numerous current and former officials have leaked purportedly classified information in connection to these questions,” Mr. Nunes said. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice.”
Schiff: Collusion with Russia would be ‘most shocking betrayals of our democracy’
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, laid out the case that the Trump campaign was, at best, far too close to Russia — and far too eager to appease Moscow on Ukraine and other issues.
“If the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history,” he said.
Mr. Schiff said the committee also planned to examine whether the raw intelligence substantiated intelligence officials’ assessment and whether the government had reacted quickly and appropriately to revelations of Russia’s efforts to influence the election.
It is “unknowable” whether Russian meddling altered the outcome of the election, Mr. Schiff said, emphasizing that it mattered more that Moscow succeeded in intervening and will do it again.
“If we do not do our very best to understand how the Russians accomplished this unprecedented attack on our democracy and what we need to do to protect ourselves in the future,” he said, “we will have only ourselves to blame.”
The president doth protest.
With the House Intelligence Committee convening for its first public hearing on Russian election meddling, the president is posting his protests on Twitter — again.
The search for the real “leaker” is likely to be part of the questioning of the F.B.I. director, since Mr. Nunes has seconded the president’s opinion.But Mr. Schiff asserted on Sunday that there was circumstantial evidence of collusion between Russian intelligence and Trump associates during the campaign. So protest as he might, Mr. Trump is not going to head off that line of questioning.