FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Rogers on Monday will break their public silence in the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
What would you do differently?
If he knew what he knows now in the summer of 2016, Comey said, the FBI would have sent up a "much larger flair" to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to let them know they had been hacked by Russia.
"I might have walked over there myself knowing what I know now," Comey said in response to questions from former CIA officer Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas).
The DNC and the FBI have wrangled in the past over the bureau's handling of the investigation into the original hack.
When the bureau first contacted the DNC about a nation-state breach of its systems, the tech-support contractor who fielded the call was unsure if the special agent was actually from the FBI, or was a prankster. For weeks, the agent continued to call the committee, but did not receive a response.
CrowdStrike president Shawn Henry, who is also a former head of the FBI's cyber division, told The New York Times he was shocked the FBI didn't send an agent to the DNC's offices directly.
“We are not talking about an office that is in the middle of the woods of Montana,” Henry said. “We are talking about an office that is half a mile from the FBI office that is getting the notification.”
FBI waited months to brief congressional leaders on probe because of ‘sensitivity’
The FBI waited to brief congressional leaders on its investigation into Russian election interference, which covers potential coordination between Donald Trump’s campaign aides and Moscow, because of the “sensitivity” of the matter, FBI Director Comey said.
Comey said that congressional leaders were briefed on the ongoing probe “sometime recently,” after revealing that the counterintelligence investigation had been started last July. Comey also said that he briefed Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' MORE on the probe on his first day. Coats was only confirmed last week.
Comey said that the FBI typically briefs senior congressional leaders, the White House and the DNI on sensitive matters on a quarterly basis.
“If the open investigation began in July and the briefing on congressional leadership only occurred recently, why was there no notification prior to the last month?” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked.
“I think our decision was it was a matter of such sensitivity that we wouldn’t include it in the quarterly briefings,” Comey replied.
He said the decision was made by the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division.
Dem rep has NSA and FBI heads rebut Trump's tweets about their answers in hearing
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) had the directors of the FBI and NSA address two tweets from the president concerning their testimony.
Comey said a tweet from the @POTUS — "The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process" — did not accurately summarized their position. Rather, Comey noted, neither the NSA nor FBI investigate election hacking.
Himes further had the duo talk about whether or not "unmasking" was a threat to national security, as President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE twice tweeted. Unmasking, a technical term, involves a clearing process to ensure there is no threat to national security. Rogers suggested Trump might have meant leaks.
Comey silent on Trump himself
Comey declined to comment on whether Trump himself is under investigation.
Pressed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Comey kept his silence both on whether Trump had been under investigation during the campaign — or now.
But he cautioned lawmakers not to "over-interpret," noting that he has briefed the committee chair and ranking member "in detail."
Comey notes he has not said "collusion" today — as a "legal term of art" — but the FBI is investigating "coordination."— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) March 20, 2017
Dem rep says Russian hacking 'act of war'
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said that Russia's election hacking campaign was an act of hybrid warfare.
"I actually think that their engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare," Speier said.
FBI Director Comey said that he would not choose the word "war" to describe Russia's interference in the election in response to questioning from Speier.
"I don't think I would use the word 'warfare.' I think you would want to ask experts in the definition of war," Comey said. "I think they engaged in a multi-faceted campaign of active measures to undermine our democracy and hurt one of the candidates and hope to help one of the other candidates."
NSA Director Rogers agreed with Comey's statement.
Nunes alleges intel community 'changed' view of Russian hacking aims
Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) alleged that the intelligence community changed its view between December and early January of Russia's aims for election hacking, which FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers both refuted.
Nunes said that the intelligence community moved from in December assessing that Russia interfered in the election to damage Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports MORE to assessing in early January, when the unclassified report on its investigation was released, that the goal was also to help Trump win the election.
"You have both said that the Russians favored Donald Trump this election, and you made that change from the beginning of December, it was not that they were trying to help Donald Trump, but that changed by early January," Dunes said Monday afternoon.
"We didn't change our view from December to early January - we, the FBI, and I don't know that anybody else did on the IC team," Comey said, pushing back.
"From my perspective, we didn't have a fully formed view until the end of December," Rogers said.
"At some point, the assessment changed from going from just trying to hurt Hillary Clinton to know that they were actually trying to help Donald Trump get elected," Nunes pressed. "That was early December as far as I know, and by early January you all changed your mind on that."
Both Comey and Rogers said that was not their recollection.
Nunes went on to grill the officials about whether Russia has "historically" preferred Republicans to win presidential elections over Democrats, a line of questioning that seemed to baffle Comey and Rogers.
Russia used 'cut-out' to deal with WikiLeaks
Russia intelligence officials didn't deal directly with WikiLeaks but supplied the website with hacked emails using "some kind of cut-out," Comey said.
"We assess they used some kind of cut-out," Comey said in response to questioning from ranking member Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Hillicon Valley — Hacking goes global Schiff calls on Amazon, Facebook to address spread of vaccine misinformation Spotlight turns to GOP's McCarthy in Jan. 6 probe MORE (R-Calif.). "They didn't deal directly with WikiLeaks, in contrast to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0."
WikiLeaks published hacked emails from high-level Democratic officials, including Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, ahead of the presidential election last year.
Gowdy suggests reporters might be prosecuted for leaks
Trey GowdyTrey GowdyTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows Pompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy MORE (R-S.C.) asked Comey whether reporters could be prosecuted for leaks — despite a longstanding tradition and court history of not prosecuting the press.
“Is there an exception in the law for current or former U.S. officials requesting anonymity?” asked Gowdy.
The FBI director said there was not.
“Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?” asked Gowdy.
Comey struggled to answer the question, saying it was something that had never been prosecuted “in my lifetime.”
“That’s a harder question,” said Comey.
The Obama administration was tough on journalists, including labeling a Fox News reporter an unindicted co-conspirator in a leaking case and the tapping of reporters' phones. Reporters were not, however, prosecuted.
“There have been a lot of statutes involved in this investigations for which no one has ever been prosecuted or convicted, and that does not keep people from discussing those statutes, I’m thinking namely of the Logan act," Gowdy said.
Gowdy also asked Comey about whether former Obama administration officials — including former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former national security adviser Ben Rhodes, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates — and Obama himself had access to transcripts of Michael Flynn's communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, implying that they could have leaked them to the press.
Comey: 'No information' supporting Trump's wiretapping claims
The Department of Justice has “no information” to support Trump’s claim that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Chelsea Manning tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Obama backs Trudeau in Canadian election MORE “wiretapped” Trump Tower, Comey said Monday.
Comey refused to “characterize” the tweets containing the allegation from Trump, saying only that “I have no information” that supports the claim.
Comey will not comment on Roger Stone
Ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asked a series of questions about Roger Stone, the onetime Trump ally who has both acknowledged "back channel" discussions with WikiLeaks and Twitter direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, believed to be a pseudonym of Russian intelligence involved in the election season hacking.
Comey declined to comment in any way, other than to say he's generally aware what has been printed in media reports.
Comey confirms existence of FBI probe into Russian interference
Comey on Monday morning confirmed that the bureau is investigating Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election — including any links or coordination between members of Trump's campaign and Moscow.
The bombshell revelation puts an end to months of roiling speculation and frustration on the part of Democrats, who saw the director’s silence as a double standard after Comey’s repeated disclosures in its investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State.
In a dramatic moment at the beginning of the hotly anticipated House Intelligence Committee hearing, Comey announced that he had been authorized by the Justice Department to break bureau policy and publicly disclose the probe.
“As you know our practice is not to confirm the existence of an ongoing investigation,” he said. “But in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so.”
A palpable ripple of anticipation went through the hearing room as Comey continued: “This is one of those circumstances.”
But he declined to provide more details, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. The scope, he said, will include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.
“I can promise you we will follow the facts wherever they lead,” Comey vowed.
GOP chairman questions whether Russia affected election outcome
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) used his initial questions to suggest that Russia's actions in the election had no impact on the outcome — a victory for Trump.
Nunes did so by asking Rogers about whether the agency had any intelligence showing voting machines in swing states were tampered with — briefly a popular theory among Democrats trying to explain presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's defeat. Nunes mentioned Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina as he discussed various swing states.
Rogers cautioned that the NSA is a foreign intelligence service, but said that there he had no evidence of such an attack.
'No evidence' of wiretapping: committee heads
Both the GOP chairman and ranking Democrat opened Monday's proceedings by immediately disavowing Trump's claim that he was wiretapped.
In a brief opening statement, Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said that "we know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower" but allowed that "it's still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates."
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — in a lengthy opening statement that is set to run a full 15 minutes — said that the committee has found "no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous accusation."
Comey's testimony was a tough ticket to get in Washington during a busy day.