March 21st, 2017

Spencer Ackerman, reporting in Trump-Russia collusion is being investigated by FBI, Comey confirms for The Guardian, writes:

[FBI director James] Comey and [NSA director, Adm Michael] Rogers refused to answer scores of questions speculating on who in Trump’s orbit could be part of the wide-ranging investigation and spurned countless invitations to comment on news reports. But they made many key points over the course of several extraordinary hours of testimony.

  • The counter-intelligence investigation into Trump-Moscow links began in late July 2016 and is still ongoing.
  • More than one person associated with the Trump campaign is under investigation for their ties to the Russian government.
  • Both FBI and NSA directors said there was no information to support Trump’s claims that he had been wiretapped by the Obama administration.
  • The NSA chief rejected White House suggestions that GCHQ had helped the Obama administration spy on Trump Tower and said the claim was “frustrating to a key ally.”
  • The Russian intervention in the election was “unusually loud”, as if Moscow did not care about being caught.
  • These are not casual revelations. Comey told the House intelligence panel that:

    “I have been authorised by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said.

    He added: “And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia.”

    One facet of this hearing brought me, and I must think, many others up short when Twitter invaded the proceedings in real time.

    As the hearing unfolded, Trump’s official @POTUS accounts sent out more tweets, giving live commentary with embedded clips of the proceedings.

    One of the tweets claimed:

    President Trump (@POTUS)

    The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.
    March 20, 2017

    The tweet made its way to the committee, with the result that Comey and Rogers were confronted with it. Again they said there was no basis for the assertion.

    “We’ve offered no opinion, have no view … on potential impact, because it’s not something that we’ve looked at,” Comey said. “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today because we don’t have any information on that subject. And it wasn’t something that was looked at.”

    That the phrase this just in could become part of a Congressional hearing boggles the mind. While Republicans attempted to direct the conversation in a different direction, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) used his time this way:

    Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence?. “Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt US persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.

    If Trump or his people cooperated with Russia’s so-called “active measures, it would represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history … The stakes are nothing less than the future of our democracy, and of liberal democracy.

    Congress allowed President Richard Milhous Nixon free rein for nearly five years before convening the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. Here we are a little more than five weeks into the presidency of Donald John Trump and the only question is when will Sen. Howard Baker’s 21st century counterpart repeat the question: What did the president know and when did he know it?

    Meanwhile, the circle jerk continues and is reinforced by Adam Gabbatt writing in No, over there! Our case-by-case guide to the Trump distraction technique for The Guardian. Last evening Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah weighed in on the hearings.

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