In a rare public hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday, FBI director James Comey and NSA director Michael Rogers Clapper will be asked to provide information on the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. DNI director James Clapper, and Obama’s CIA director John Brennan are also scheduled to testify.
So far today, Director Comey has publicly confirmed that the FBI is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election in addition to possible collusion of the Trump campaign with agents of the Russian government.
The entire US intelligence community has accused Moscow of trying to influence the election, saying that Russian President Putin initially wanted to sabotage candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and then actively sought to help Donald Trump win the presidential race.
Comey and Rogers’ testimony may shed more light on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and the ways in which Trump aides may have colluded with Russian spies to influence the election’s outcome. There is also circumstantial evidence that some Trump aides, and even the president himself, may still be vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.
Just last month, the White House was caught asking senior intelligence officials and members of Congress — including Trump transition team member and committee chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California — to call news outlets to dismiss stories about numerous contacts between members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence agents during the 2016 campaign. The administration’s coordinated assault on the media was an attempt to cover up a growing set of scandals threatening its authority as well as its future.
In his opening moments of his testimony, Comey officially tells House members that there are no grounds for President Trump’s recent evidence-free claim that the Obama administration had Trump Tower wiretapped prior to the election.
Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign less than a month after taking the post over communications he had had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and for then lying to the public or to Vice President Mike Pence about those meetings.
Former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, who reportedly warned the White House in late December that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail because of his contacts with Kislyak, will also be testifying on Monday. Flynn himself is not scheduled to testify.
The committee’s ranking Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff of California, warned against future cyberattacks on American democracy, adding that: “If the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, 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.”