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Comey Faces Public Hearing On Russian Interference, Alleged Trump Wiretap

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FBI Director James Comey and the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers, will be questioned by members of the House Intelligence Committee this morning, in one of the most anticipated hearings in recent memory on Capitol Hill.

There’s been a lot of speculation about what Director Comey will say about wiretaps and Russian meddling in the election -- and today, we will hear from him directly. For two weeks Comey has been urging the Justice Department to publicly reject the president’s wiretapping claim. Since that hasn’t happened, this morning he is expected to do it himself early on in the hearing.

He is also likely to be asked about possible criminal investigations into people close to the president over ties to Russia.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET.

Comey will face tough questions -- from both Republicans and Democrats -- on the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the campaign. In January the U.S. intelligence community issued a report stating the CIA, FBI and NSA concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign involving covert intelligence operations and overt propaganda to undermine the 2016 U.S. election, in order to suppress support for Hillary Clinton and to aid Mr. Trump.

Comey also will be asked whether there is any evidence Trump Tower was wiretapped by the Obama administration, as originally alleged by President Trump in a series of tweets, and in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

“Wiretap covers a lot of different things,” Mr. Trump said on March 15. “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”

But on Sunday, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes, said the evidence he’s seen suggests otherwise. “Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No,” Nunes said on Fox News. “There never was.”

But the panel’s ranking Democrat says that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week to the committee offers circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ‘’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Trump administration is also not backing down after it recently cited an unsubstantiated report claiming British intelligence may have helped President Obama tap Trump Tower. Over the weekend, a former U.K. ambassador to the United States accused the administration of “peddling falsehoods.”

Republican Congressman Will Hurd, of Texas, suggested Mr. Trump apologize for the accusations.

“It never hurts to say you’re sorry,” he said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “And it’s not just sorry to the president, but also to the U.K. for the claims, or the intimation, that the U.K. was involved in this as well. And it takes away from the rest of his agenda.”

There will be limits to what Director Comey can reveal. Typically the FBI does not comment on ongoing investigations. When Director Comey broke with protocol during the election to speak openly about the Clinton email server investigation, he was accused of playing politics.

Among some Members of Congress, Comey’s reputation is still under repair.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

But Comey may feel compelled to respond to Mr. Trump’s unproven Twitter assertions. President Obama’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, has publicly called the claims false.

Earlier this month, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released documents that show Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was paid more than $67,000 from Russia companies before the presidential election, including $33,750 from Russia’s government-run television station to appear at an event in Moscow in December 2015.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a hearing for later in the month.

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