James Comey confirms the FBI is investigating Donald Trump's associates for ties to Russia

Key points from FBI and NSA director's testimony Watch | Key points from FBI and NSA director's testimony
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  • FBI Director James Comey confirms probe into any Trump Moscow links
  • Probe includes "whether any crimes were committed"
  • Comey says FBI has "no evidence" Barack Obama wiretapped Donald Trump
  • Head of NSA says "nonsense" that British intelligence involved in Trump wiretapping
  • Michael Rogers says allegation "frustrates a key ally"
  • Donald Trump trolls FBI director

The director of the FBI took the extraordinary step of publicly confirming the bureau has launched a criminal investigation into suggestions of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's campaign during last year's presidential election.

James Comey also shot down claims by President Trump that his predecessor Barack Obama had him wiretapped, saying the FBI had "no information" to support the allegations.

It came as Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, declared it was "nonsense and ridiculous" for the Trump administration to have suggested that GCHQ was used by Mr Obama to spy on Trump Tower in New York.
 

Sean Spicer describes Trump associates believed to be investigated for Russian links as 'hangers on' Watch | Sean Spicer describes Trump associates believed to be investigated for Russian links as 'hangers on'
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The heads of the FBI and NSA were called to give evidence to the House Intelligence Committee which is investigating accusations that Russia tried to influence the election by hacking the Democratic National Committee and releasing information embarrassing to Hillary Clinton.

Mr Comey said it was FBI practice not to confirm the existence of an investigation, especially one involving classified material, but in this case it was in the public interest to do so. He said the probe, which began last summer, included whether there was any co-ordination between "individuals associated with the Trump campaign" and the Russian government.

Mr Comey added: "As with any counterintelligence investigation this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."

The FBI director could not say "more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining" but had taken the "extraordinary step" of briefing senior politicians in congress in a classified setting.

On March 4 Mr Trump accused Mr Obama of wiretapping him in a series of tweets but offered no evidence.

Mr Comey said: "With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI.

"The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components."

He added: "No individual in the United States can direct surveillance of anyone. It has to go through a process and be ordered by a court. No president could."

Mr Rogers, the NSA chief, was asked about the suggestion that British spies were involved in wiretapping Trump Tower and whether he agreed it was "nonsense and utterly ridiculous".

He replied: "Yes sir".

Earlier this month Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary repeated unsubstantiated allegations by a Fox News analyst that GCHQ helped Mr Obama to wiretap Trump Tower, which was robustly denied by British intelligence.

Mr Rogers said it would have been a violation of the law to ask the British to do so, and they were not.

He added: "I've seen nothing on the NSA side that we've been engaged in that or that anyone asked us to do so."

Asked if the assertion had done damage to US-UK relations he said: "I think it clearly frustrates a key ally of ours. I believe the relationship is strong enough and this is something we'll be able to deal with."

During the hearing Mr Comey and Mr Rogers said they had no evidence or intelligence that Russian hacking changed vote tallies in key states during the election.

Mr Trump then tweeted: "The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process."

But in a bizarre moment Jim Himes, a Democratic congressman, then read out the tweet at the hearing and asked if it was accurate.

Mr Comey clarified: "It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today because we don’t have any information on that subject."

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, suggested one of the reasons Vladimir Putin's Russia had wanted to encourage Mr Trump's candidacy was because the billionaire was in favour of Brexit.

Mr Schiff said: "Would they like to encourage candidates in favour of Brexit? Would they like to see more Brexits?"

Mr Comey replied: "Yes."

Mr Trump accused Democrats of fabricating links between his campaign and Russia, and called on congress and the FBI to focus instead on finding out who was behind leaks of classified information that have dogged the early weeks of his administration.

He said: "The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Must find leaker now!."

Mr Comey said leaks were illegal under under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act.

Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the committee, said if anyone in the Trump campaign was found to have 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 added: "We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates."

Democrats pressured Mr Trump to withdraw his wiretapping allegation against Mr Obama.

But his spokesman Mr Spicer said: "No."

Mr Spicer said the FBI had no information to back up the wiretapping allegation "at this time. We've started a hearing and it's still ongoing."

Chairman of house intelligence committee speaks

Devin Nunes, chairman of the intelligence committee, speaking outside the meeting room now.

Will more people be brought before the committee?

Clearly Mike Flynn is somebody in the investigation.

The other people I don't have any evidence of wrong doing.

Has the president's credibility taken a hit?

No, I don't think so.

But he was live tweeting the hearing?

I've said this several times.

If you take it literally, it did not happen.

The president says he did not mean it literally.

Hopefully by the end of this week we will have the answers.

Is the FBI looking into the president's business ties?

I highly doubt that.

But then again, we don't know everything.

 

What have we learnt from the house intelligence committee?

The house intelligence committee has just finished its hearing.

So what have we learnt, from James Comey, the FBI director, and Mike Rogers, NSA chief?

  1. There was no wiretapping of Trump Tower
  2. There is an investigation into Trump associates and Russians
  3. GCHQ did not tap Trump Tower
  4. There was no interference in election-day process

James Comey on why he is testifying

We are, to quote a great American, the shining city on the hill.

Mr Comey says that he "an effort to undermine the democratic process" would be a grave offence, and something worth investigating.

James Comey, FBI director Credit: Rex

He continues:

I'm not here voluntarily.

I would rather not be talking about it at all.

But we thought it was important to share this with the American people.

Now we will shut our mouths and do our work.

Sean Spicer's press conference ends

  • He said that figures reportedly being investigated for their Russia links - Carter Page, Roger Stone - were "hangers on" with no ties to the Trump campaign
  • He berated the media for downplaying, in his eyes, repeated assertions from the intelligence community that there was no "collusion" with Russian figures.
  • He said, once again, that Mr Trump will not apologise to Barack Obama.
  • He said, once again, that in his communications with Britain - following the repeating on Thursday of a "nonsense" story that British spies tapped Trump Tower - "There was merely an explanation of what we did, and why we did it."

Is reading a story from the podium vouching for it?

Sean Spicer is asked about his reading on Friday of a Fox News story, alleging Britain spied on Trump Tower.

He says:

I think merely reading a story is not vouching for it.

It's reading a story.

It's not necessarily endorsing it.

Reading stories several people have put out is not necessarily endorsing it.

Sean Spicer

He is now asked about his conversations with Britain, about the allegation that GCHQ spied on Mr Trump.

He says:

There was merely an explanation of what we did, and why we did it.

 

Spicer: "It's not about me, it's about you"

Sean Spicer is asked about the reporting of the Russia investigations.

There is a big difference.

Everyone keeps saying there is an investigation into the 2016 election - got it, no disagreement there.

But when the people have been briefed by the FBI about collusion: the answer is no. Take no for an answer.

It's not about me, it's about you.

Sean Spicer: 'It's not about me, it's about you' Watch | Sean Spicer: 'It's not about me, it's about you'
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They have talked about this for a long time.

That is vastly difference from saying there is collusion.

What about Hillary Clinton? There is zero minutes paid to that Russian official saying they had attempted to reach out to her campaign.

There continues to be a very literal interpretation of his tweet.

The president understands you don't literally tap his phone with wires, like you did in the 70s and 80s.

He talked about the high amount of leaks of classified information.

There is a lot of headlines coming out: but the only ones people want to write is against the administration.

Spicer  asked about Roger Stone

Why? Roger Stone is one of the people believed to be under investigation for links to Russia.

Sean Spicer asked about Roger Stone Watch | Sean Spicer asked about Roger Stone
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Sean Spicer defines the relationship thus:

Mr Stone is somebody the president has known for a long time.

He worked briefly for the campaign, until August 2015 I believe.

They have a long relationship dating back years, providing counsel.

I'm not sure when the last time they spoke was.

Spicer now asked about Trump's golf

Donald Trump was a strident critic of Barack Obama for playing golf.

Mr Trump said he would barely leave the White House, if he was president...

Donald Trump plays golf with Shinzo Abe 

Yet President Trump has spent five of the past seven weekends playing golf.

Mr Spicer says Mr Trump's trips are justified.

We saw him utilise this, as with Prime Minister Abe, to help foster relations.

Secondly; we went to a mini cabinet meeting at his club in Virginia. Just because you go somewhere, it doesn't mean you play golf.

 

Spicer insists, again, no collusion between Trump campaign and Russians

There is an assumption that, because there is an investigation, it must be about something.

Everyone has come to the same conclusion: that there is no conclusion.

"Hangers on around the campaign"?

Spicer on collusion between Trump associates and Russia.

I think it's fine to look into it.

But at the end of the day, you will come to the conclusion that everyone else has.

Carter Page, a one-time Trump advisor

He refers to people as "hangers on around the campaign" - asked if he means Roger Stone and Carter Page, he says yes.

There is a fine line between people who claimed to have a part of something they never had a role in, and campaign officials.

You can read more about the associates with possible Russia ties here.

Will the president apologise to Barack Obama?

One word answer from Sean Spicer:

No.

Sean Spicer begins his press conference

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, is addressing this morning's testimony.

He emphasises that senior Obama administration officials went on the record as saying there was no collusion with Russia.

He also addresses leaks of info - "the illegal leak, which is a federal crime"

Sean Spicer

 

President Trump responds with video clip

President Donald Trump is highlighting FBI Director James' Comey's refusal to say whether he briefed President Barack Obama on a Trump adviser's contacts with Russia.

Trump tweeted a video clip of Comey being asked if he informed Obama about calls made by Michael Flynn, who was fired as White House national security adviser. Comey says he won't discuss that case or any other discussions he had with Obama.

The tweet appears to suggest that the Obama administration was behind leaks about Flynn's contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Flynn was fired after news reports revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials about his discussions with the envoy.

Russia used an intermediary to dump documents with Wikileaks, Comey says. 

Mr Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, asked Mr Comey if Russia had direct dealings with Wikileaks.

Mr Comey responded: "We assess they used some kind of cut out. They didn’t deal directly with Wikileaks."

In the elevtion it was Wikileaks that released emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee that damaged Hillary Clinton.

Comey says Putin preferred Trump because he's a businessman 

Mr Comey told the hearing: "Putin preferred business leaders. Schroeder and Berlusconi. He believes they're more open to negotiation and easier to deal with."

Russians wanted Trump to win because he supported movements like Brexit 

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, has suggested one of the reasons Vladimir Putin's Russia wanted to encourage Mr Trump's candidacy was because the billionaire was in favour of movements like Brexit that undermined European unity.

Mr Schiff asked: "Would they like to encourage candidates in favour of Brexit? Would they like to see more Brexits?"

Mr Comey replied: "Yes."

Committee questions role of Roger Stone 

The Democrats on the committee have been questioning the role of Roger Stone, the veteran political operative who informally advised Mr Trump.

They have been mentioning suggestions Mr Stone was in contact with the hacker Guccifer 2,  and his praise for Julian Assange.

Mr Stone responded:

President Trump: 'What about all the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians?" 

President Trump tweeted just before the hearing:

Comey on Mr Trump's tweets suggesting Mr Obama wiretapped him

Mr Comey told the hearing: "I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI." 

Comey says 'no president' can order a wiretap 

Mr Comey says the FBI and Justice Department have no information to substantiate President Trump's claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him before the election.

The FBI Director says no individual can order surveillance of an American. He says courts grant this permission after a rigorous application process.

Mr Comey told the hearing: "No individual in the United States can direct surveillance of anyone. It has to go through a process and be ordered by a court. No president could."

NSA Director agrees 'nonsense' that GCHQ helped Obama spy on Trump Tower 

Michael Rogers, head of the NSA, has been asked about the allegation that British spies were involved in wiretapping Trump Tower.

Asked if he agreed with British assertions that it was "nonsense and ridiculous" he said "Yes sir".

Rogers said it would have been a violation of the law to ask the British to do so.

He added: "That would be in express contravention of the five eyes agreement that has been in place for decades. I've seen nothing on the NSA side that we've been engaged in that or that anyone asked us to do so."

Asked if the assertion had done damage to US-UK relations he said: "I think it clearly frustrates a key ally of ours."

He said it was "not helpful but said: "I believe the relationship is strong enough and this is something we'll be able to deal with."

Comey denies he is involved in form of "McCarthyism" 

Mr Comey was asked about assertions from the Trump camp thatthe pursuit of evidence of links between the campaign and Russia amounted to "McCarthyism".

The FBI Director responded: "I try hard not to engage in any 'isms 'of any kind including McCarthyism."

Committee chairman says no evidence of "physical" wiretap at Trump Tower but "other surveillance" possible

The chairman of the House intelligence committee says there was no physical wiretap on Trump Tower, but it is possible that "other surveillance activities" were used against President Donald Trump and his associates.

Devin Nunes was speaking at the opening of the committee's first public hearing on Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

He says the committee has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents, but will continue to investigate that question.

He also says the committee will investigate who has been leaking classified information about investigations into Russia's interference.

Mr Nunes says he hopes the committee's hearings will result in a "definitive report" on Russia's involvement in the presidential election.

Rogers says Russia did interfere in the election

National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers says the intelligence community stands behind its January assessment that it is highly confident Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of electing Donald Trump.

In a Monday morning tweet, Mr Trump blamed Democrats for the investigation into his contacts and said the House intelligence committee should be focus on investigating leaks.

Mr Rogers said that his agency is working to provide Congress the material it needs to investigate the intelligence agencies' findings.

No evidence Russian interference changed voter tallies

Mr Comey and Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, say they have no evidence or intelligence that Russian cyber actors changed vote tallies in key states during last year's presidential election.

Testifying at the highly politically charged congressional hearing in the House, both said they had no evidence that any vote tallies were changed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina or Ohio.

Comey confirms FBI probing alleged Russian interference in U.S. vote

FBI Director James Comey has confirmed the agency is investigating possible Russian government efforts to interfere in the 2016 US election including any links between President Donald Trump's campaign and Moscow.

Mr Comey told a congressional hearing on Russian activities that the probe "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's efforts."

"Because it is an open, ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining," Comey said.