A Democratic congressman asked FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers to respond in real time to President Donald Trump’s tweets, which attempted to favourably spin the pair’s testimony from Monday’s congressional hearing regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
During the House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday, Republican chair Rep. Devin Nunes asked whether there was any evidence Russians directly altered vote tallies in key states Trump won. Rogers answered that there was “nothing generated by the NSA” to suggest there was direct hacking of voting machines.
The president’s Twitter account quickly shared the response in a short clip, tweeting equivocally: “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.”
But the clip took Nunes and Rogers’ response out of context, a point Democrats were quick to point out.
Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut, later read Trump’s tweet to Comey and Rogers and asked them to correct the record.
“I asked you whether the intelligence community had undertaken any sort of study to determine whether Russia interference had any influence on the electoral process and I think you told me the answer was no,” Himes said, referring to questions earlier in Monday’s hearing.
“That’s correct,” Comey said.
“I’ve got a tweet from the president an hour ago,” Himes said, reading the tweet. “That’s not quite accurate, that tweet?”
After saying he hadn’t “been following anyone on Twitter” during the hearing, the FBI director reaffirmed the agency did not study whether Russian interference affected the outcome of the 2016 election.
“It’s hard for me to react to that, let me just tell you what we’ve said is. We’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact, because it’s never something we’ve looked at,” Comey said.
“So it’s not too far of a logical leap, that the assertion that you have told the Congress that there was no influence on the electoral process, is not quite right,” Himes asked.
“It certainly was not our intention to say that today, because we do not have any information on that subject,” Comey replied. “That’s not something that was looked at.”
Himes then asked about a separate video Trump tweeted on Monday slamming the so-called unmasking of individuals involved in intelligence investigations.
“My understanding was, as a member of the committee, that there is a lengthy and very specific process for the unmasking, but it does not inherently of itself endanger national security,” Himes asked after reading the tweet.
“I assume the comment is designed to the leaking of such information,” Rogers said. “But again, I have not read what you are saying to me, so I’m not in a position to comment on it.”
Though they attempted to avoid politicizing the investigation further, Comey and Rogers on Monday appeared to rebut several Trump claims.
Comey confirmed that the FBI had no evidence suggesting President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump, which the president accused his predecessor of doing, without evidence, earlier this month. And Comey said law enforcement officials were investigating potential links between top Trump campaign figures and the Russia government.
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