FBI Director James Comey said in his opening statement Monday the general policy of his agency is to not disclose ongoing investigations, especially those involving classified information.
Except, he said, for “unusual circumstances” in which it is in the public interest.
“This is one of those circumstances,” he said.
Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers testified in a much-anticipated House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday on alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and answered a wide variety of questions from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
For those who missed the news-breaking daytime event, here are the three biggest things to know about the hearing.
1. The FBI is investigating Russian meddling — and potential ties to Trump
Comey confirmed Monday that his agency is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election, including the country’s reported ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
“[The investigation] 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 effort,” he said.
During his opening statement, he said the FBI’s investigation would also assess whether any crimes were committed.
The New York Times reported last month that several Trump aides and associates had repeatedly contacted “senior Russian intelligence officials” before last year’s election. However, American intelligence officials had also reportedly found no evidence the campaign was colluding with Russian efforts to interfere with the election.
During Monday’s hearing, Comey declined to confirm the absence of such evidence of collusion. However, he warned against reading into his declinations, given the FBI’s policy of commenting on ongoing investigations.
According to Comey, the FBI began their investigation in late July.
2. Trump’s misleading tweet
Midway through the hearing Monday afternoon, the president himself chimed in.
In a tweet from the official @POTUS account, Trump shared a clip of Rogers and Comey saying they had seen no evidence that Russian actors “changed vote tallies” in any swing states during the election.
The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. pic.twitter.com/d9HqkxYBt5
— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017
“The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process,” Trump said in his 12:42 p.m. tweet.
However, that was neither what Rogers nor Comey said. As the video shows, the two intelligence officials were responding to a question about whether physical votes were changed — rather than if Russian cyber-efforts had any broader influence had on the “electoral process.”
Just a few hours later Monday afternoon, Comey and Rogers were asked about Trump’s tweet.
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 20, 2017
Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat, read the president’s tweet out loud during the hearing and asked the two officials whether Trump’s assertion was accurate.
“It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today, because we don’t have any information on that subject,” Comey said.
For what it’s worth, statistical attempts to determine whether the drip-drip release of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign had a meaningful impact on voters’ decisions found the evidence to be “circumstantial.”
“The evidence suggests Wikileaks is among the factors that might have contributed to her loss, but we really can’t say much more than that,” FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten wrote last December.
3. No wiretapping evidence
Earlier in the hearing, Comey and Rogers tossed more cold water on the president’s tweets.
Asked about Trump’s apparently unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped the Republican presidential candidate, both intelligence officials said they had seen no such evidence.
FBI Director Comey on tweets from President Trump: "I have no information that supports those tweets." pic.twitter.com/n3f2oMSo5h
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 20, 2017
“I have no information that supports those tweet, and we have looked carefully within the FBI,” said Comey, adding that the Department of Justice had asked him to share that they also have no such information backing up Trump’s assertion.
Rogers concurred, knocking down the White House’s suggestion that his agency had enlisted British intelligence allies to surveil Trump during the campaign.
“I’ve seen nothing on the NSA side that we engaged in such activity, nor that anyone engaged in such activity,” he said.