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Lawmakers press Comey on rumors of FBI probe into Trump camp

Lawmakers press Comey on rumors of FBI probe into Trump camp
© Greg Nash

The head of the FBI on Tuesday declined to answer questions from a lawmakers on whether the bureau has investigated alleged links between Russia and President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE's campaign. 

In his first appearance before Congress since the presidential election, Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the existence of such an investigation in an open setting.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury MORE (D-Ore.) called on Comey to issue a declassified statement on the matter before Trump’s inauguration, on Jan. 20.

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“I think the American people have a right to know this,” Wyden said. “And if there is delay in declassifying this information and releasing it to the American people and it doesn’t happen before Jan. 20, I’m not sure it’s going to happen.”

Rumors have swirled that the bureau has probed contact between members of the Trump campaign and Russia leading up to the election — officials say the Kremlin was conducting a widespread influence campaign intended to help the real estate mogul win the White House.

In an Oct. 30 letter to Comey, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it was “clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government,” citing “communications with you and other top officials in the national security community.”

The FBI has been silent on whether such a probe exists.

“In a public forum, we never confirm or deny any investigation,” Comey said Tuesday.

“The irony of your making that statement I cannot avoid,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingThe next pandemic may be cyber — How Biden administration can stop it Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Angus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information MORE (I-Maine) said.

“Sometimes we think differently with respect to a closed investigation,” Comey said.

Many — including Reid — have explicitly blamed Comey for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's loss in November.

Eleven days before Election Day, Comey sent a letter to lawmakers telling them investigators had uncovered new emails that could be "potentially pertinent" to the bureau’s probe, considered completed at the time, of Clinton's private email server and handling of classified material while secretary of State.

The announcement exploded in the final days of the election — and a subsequent missive from Comey saying the emails had turned up no new evidence did little to quell the storm.

“In the matter of the email investigation, it was our my judgment — my judgment, the rest of the FBI’s judgment — that those were exceptional circumstances where the public needed information,” Comey told the House Judiciary Committee in September.