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|March 29, 2017|
FBI director debunks Trump wiretap claim, confirms Russia probe
WASHINGTON - FBI Director James Comey has debunked President Donald Trump's explosive claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him in the weeks before last year's presidential election.
At a hearing before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Monday, Comey also confirmed that his agency is investigating whether Trump campaign aides criminally colluded with Russian interests to help him win.
"I have no information that supports [Trump's] tweets" claiming that Obama eavesdropped on him at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York, Comey said.
Despite that statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer later said Trump will not withdraw his wiretapping allegation. "We've started a hearing, it's still ongoing," Spicer said. "There's a lot of areas that still need to be covered. There's a lot of information that still needs to be discussed."
Comey told the panel that because the counterintelligence investigation of Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election is classified, "I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining." He said congressional leaders have been briefed behind closed doors.
But Comey said he has been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm that the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe "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 efforts."
Two months into his presidency, Trump said Democrats "made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign," adding that the campaign of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was presumed to have a "big advantage" in the country's Electoral College that determined the outcome, and still lost.
In other tweets Monday, Trump said "the real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!" Trump has often complained about leaks of information that have cast a wide shadow on his performance.
The White House last week suggested that Obama may have asked the British intelligence agency to wiretap Trump. But Admiral Michael Rogers, the director of the country's National Security Agency, told the House panel that did not occur and that the U.S. and Britain do not spy on each other under a long-standing agreement between the allies.
U.S. investigators say Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking into the computers at the Democratic National Committee. The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks subsequently released thousands of emails from the files of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta in the month before the election, showing embarrassing, behind-the-scenes efforts of Democratic operatives to help Clinton win the party's presidential nomination.
But the Trump administration has rebuffed any contention that its campaign aides colluded with Russian officials in that cyberattack. Nunes, the House Intelligence panel chairman, also said he has not seen signs of collusion.
Also on Capitol Hill, a partisan divide emerged in first day of confirmation hearings for Supereme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch made clear his conservative leanings by speaking out against judicial activism.
“It’s for this body, the people’s representatives [in Congress] to make new laws,” Gorsuch said. “If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk.”
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee praised Gorsuch’s conservative judicial philosophy, while Democrats voiced concerns that he would solidify what they view as the Supreme Court’s pro-corporate leanings.
“No matter your politics, you should be concerned about the preservation of our constitutional order, and most importantly the separation of powers,” said the committee’s chairman, Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. “Fortunately for every American, we have before us today a nominee whose body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles.”
“Our job is to assess how this nominee’s decisions will impact the American people, and whether he will protect the legal and constitutional rights of all Americans, not just the wealthy and the powerful,” said the committee’s top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. (Source: voanews)
Story Date: March 21, 2017