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FBI investigating election interference by Russia; no evidence of Trump wiretap by Obama

FBI Director confirms investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election Monday, March 20, 2016. (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations says agents are investigating any efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

Director James Comey gave testimony in a hearing about the investigation into Russia hacking claims Monday.


"I can not say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining," Comey said.

Instead, he assured lawmakers he would brief Congress in a classified setting with more detail.

“We just cannot do our work well or fairly if we start talking about it while we’re doing it.”

Before the hearing, the president tweeted assertions that any ties to Russia is "FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it."

Under questioning from the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, the FBI director also publicly contradicted a series of tweets from Trump that declared the Republican candidate's phones had been ordered tapped by President Barack Obama during the campaign.

"I have no confirmation that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI," Comey said. The same was true, he added, of the Justice Department.

The House Intelligence Committee hearing is one of several panels expected to be held in Congress.

Admiral Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency also testified, beginning his remarks by stating many of the specifics of their investigations into cyber attacks are still classified.

Both Comey and Rogers asserted there's no evidence of hackers changing votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

“I can promise you we will follow the facts wherever they lead,” Comey said.

He also stated leaks from both the NSA and the FBI should be investigated and prosecuted.

The hearing, providing the most extensive public accounting of a matter that has dogged the Trump administration for its first two months, quickly broke along partisan lines. Democrats pressed for details on the status of the FBI's investigation, while Republicans repeatedly focused on news coverage and possible improper disclosures of classified information developed through surveillance.

Comey was the latest government official to reject Trump's claims, made without any evidence, that Obama had wiretapped his New York skyscraper during the campaign. Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and chairman of the House intelligence committee, also rejected it earlier in the hearing.

Comey was testifying along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also disputed allegations that surfaced last year that British intelligence services were involved in the wiretapping.

Trump took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates' contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

"The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!" Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning's cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton's campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats' computers in a bid to help Trump's election bid.

Monday's hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president's New York City headquarters.

But the panel's ranking Democrat said the material offered 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," Schiff said on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''There's certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation."

Nunes said: "For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses."

"We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They're also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

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

Though Comey would not discuss specific evidence, he went far beyond his testimony from a hearing in January, when he 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.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton's email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

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