A Congressional committee is grilling FBI director James Comey and NSA chief Admiral Mike Rogers on a Russian-led cyber campaign to influence the 2016 election, but representatives’ questions have veered from political hacking into debates about prosecuting journalists for publishing leaked documents and, of course, questions about President Trump’s Twitter habits.
Comey was first asked to fact-check Trump’s March tweets in which he claimed President Obama wiretapped his offices in Trump Tower during the campaign season.
Asked whether the claim was correct, Comey noted that a president would not have the authority to demand a wiretap and added, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”
But the Trump administration further complicated matters by live-tweeting the hearing from Trump’s @POTUS account — which promptly led to one of the representatives asking Comey to fact-check the tweets.
“Thanks to the modern technology that’s in front of me right here, I’ve got a tweet from the president an hour ago saying, ‘The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process.’ So that’s not quite accurate, that tweet?” Rep. Jim Himes asked Comey.
“We’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it’s never something that we looked at,” Comey replied. “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today because we don’t have any information on that subject.”
The @POTUS tweet included a video from earlier in the hearing of Rep. Devin Nunes asking Comey and Rogers whether they had any evidence of Russian hackers manipulating vote tallies in key swing states. Rogers responded that his agency was focused on foreign rather than domestic affairs but said he did not have evidence of vote tampering.
However, the NSA and FBI signed off on an intelligence report in January that asserted, “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”