Intelligence hearings on Capitol Hill yesterday helped shed definitive light on accusations of wire tapping, pushed aggressively by the Trump Administration. Fielding questions from leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey corroborated discoveries made by the Department of Justice. Their formal conclusion: there was no evidence found to support wire tapping and surveillance of Trump Tower, whether by the Obama Administration or overseas actors - namely the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
During a live CNN broadcast, Comey stated in response to Trump's original charges that, "I have no information that supports those tweets." As noted by himself and CNN, the Justice Department authorized Comey to speak on their behalf. The Director also claimed it would be impossible for any president to order wire tapping operations against anyone.
Perhaps as expected of the current Administration, there was clear denial of the findings both by President Trump and Sean Spicer.
Also present at the hearing was National Security Agency Director, Mike Rogers, who was on hand when conversations pivoted towards Russian collusion. Both Rogers and Comey responded to inquiries regarding coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. As CNN reported, Comey addressed the subject with his opening statements, clarifying that early investigations began in July of 2016. Those investigations, including current efforts, "will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed." It is important to note that current efforts constitute new attempts to gather conclusive information.
The FBI was not authorized to comment on any such matters publicly during that period, as conducting ongoing investigations prevented Comey from unveiling key details.
Democratic members of the Committee missed no opportunity to pose questions of hacking and Russian coordination to Rogers and Comey; many of these questions could not be answered, given that knowledge obtained by the FBI and NSA is exclusively theirs during periods of investigation. In such instances, both directors declined to comment extensively, steering Intelligence Committee members to more appropriate lines of questioning.
As CNN outlines, it was affirmed by both Directors Comey and Rogers that votes were not manipulated, especially in key swing states. However, they clarified further that Russian hacks were aimed at affecting American public opinion, while compromising security, organization, and stability of the Democratic Party during the period in question.
President Trump took some of Comey's later remarks out of context, however, after referencing a former Obama Administration effort to assess national security relating to Russia. Prior assertions of Comey's, made in conjunction with former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, referenced intelligence that did not deal with collusion.
Since the report did not delve into the matter of campaign involvement with Russia, the FBI's head made a point to distinguish it from ongoing investigations. Trump took to his social podium, rushing to share what he deemed to be a victory for his campaign:
James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017
Ironically enough, Trump's tweet was a bit of fake news itself. Failing to understand the intricacies of an investigation and announcing false information knowingly does not convey solid credibility.
Truth be told, we still do not know with certainly whether or not there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. That is not to say that the DNC was not hacked; it was, and investigations are also actively trying to uncover the origins in greater detail. As CNN details, Comey declared that he did warn Democrats about electronic security measures in 2015. As we know now, those warnings did not appear to change the outcome, as emails were leaked.
For now, all the American public can do is sit back and watch, while remaining on guard against the dissemination of falsehoods and misinterpretations. Accordingly, the FBI is asking for patience, no matter the outcome. As Comey said: