Week ahead: Lawmakers to press Comey on Russian hacking, Trump 'wiretap' claims

Week ahead: Lawmakers to press Comey on Russian hacking, Trump 'wiretap' claims
© Greg Nash

The House Intelligence Committee on Monday will convene for its first open hearing in its investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election, which is sure to prominently feature questions about President Trump's wiretapping claims.

The panel will have the opportunity to grill FBI Director James Comey on the intelligence community's findings about Russian election hacking and Trump's unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Are we a nation that rips families apart? Another chance to seek the return of fiscal sanity to the halls of Congress Colombia’s new leader has a tough road ahead, and Obama holdovers aren't helping MORE wiretapped Trump Tower. Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, is also scheduled to testify.

Earlier this month, the committee laid out parameters for its probe into the alleged Russian election interference, which has roiled Washington in Trump's first two months in the White House. The intelligence community concluded in January that Russia worked to damage Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump mocks 'elites' at campaign rally Trump backs down in rare reversal Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE and wanted to help Trump win, conclusions that the new president met with skepticism.

The committee is examining what cyber activity Russia engaged in against the United States and its allies and whether Russia's "active measures" against the election included links between Moscow and individuals associated with political campaigns.

As a result, the hearing is likely to feature questions about potential contacts between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials. News broke on Thursday that Michael Flynn--who resigned as national security adviser following revelations of his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislak--took money from multiple Russian firms during the campaign.

Lawmakers are also poised to delve into Trump's claims that the Obama administration "wiretapped" Trump Tower ahead of the election, which the president lodged on Twitter two weeks ago but have remained unsubstantiated.

Leaders of the intelligence panels in both chambers of Congress said they have yet to see any evidence of Trump's allegations. The White House, meanwhile, insisted the president stands by his statements but have also worked to downplay his claims.

On Friday, the Justice Department sent documents to the House committee in response to a request for information about whether Trump or his aides were subject to surveillance. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) confirmed that the panel had received the information, but noted that the FBI and CIA had not yet complied with a request for information to determine “whether information collected on U.S. persons was mishandled or leaked.”

It is unclear what the DOJ actually sent the committee--the documents are classified--though Nunes told "Fox News Sunday" that the documents do not prove that there was a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. "if you take the president literally, it didn't happen," Nunes said, though he noted that he is still concerns about "other surveillance activities," specifically those related to Flynn. 

The hearing is scheduled to last three hours.



The coming week could also bring more speculation on Trump's executive order on cybersecurity, which has been delayed since the end of January. Industry leaders have anxiously awaited the release of the revised order with little information on the expected timing.

A White House adviser gave a preview of the administration's priorities on cybersecurity at a conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, disclosing plans to protect the federal network by requiring agencies to adopt the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework and tracking them on their progress.

Tom Bossert, who advises Trump on homeland security and counterterrorism, also emphasized the new administration's desire to deepen cooperation with the private sector, which was welcomed warmly by industry representatives.

"We're really encouraged by Bossert's desire to engage with the private sector on all the issues surrounding cybersecurity and technology, particularly his commitment to prioritize IT modernization," Orion Hindawi, CEO of cybersecurity company Tanium, told The Hill.

"If we're going to meet the cyber threats facing us all, it's going to require constant collaboration between government and industry. We're ready to do our part," he added.

The Trump administration's fiscal year 2018 budget proposal released Thursday also makes specific mention of the need for the government to share information on cybersecurity with the private sector.

The budget, if enacted, would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) $1.5 billion to protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. The money, in part, will fund new tools for DHS to deepen information sharing with federal agencies and the private sector. 



There will be other events on cyber to track in the upcoming week, both on and off Capitol Hill.

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a full committee hearing on defending against cyber threats on Wednesday. The committee will hear from a panel of outside experts that will include former NSA Director Keith Alexander and Michael Daniel, a former White House cyber coordinator under the Obama administration who now serves as president of the Cyber Threat Alliance.

Additionally, New America will also host a daylong cybersecurity conference on Monday featuring a number of lawmakers, officials, and outside experts, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.).

"Cybersecurity for a New America 2017 will cover a wide array of cybersecurity issues," Ross Schulman, co-director of New America's Cybersecurity Initiative, told The Hill. "We'll be exploring how states and localities can respond to cyber threats, how to maintain a robust and private internet internationally, and how to build a better cybersecurity workforce."

Cybersecurity and data privacy issues could also come up at the first confirmation hearing for Neil Gorsuch, Trump's Supreme Court nominee, on Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.