James Comey testified today to the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. The testimony was frequently interrupted as House members read media talking points and constantly asked Comey to give improper opinion statements on them, which he repeatedly refused to do. Though the hearing was marked by various politicians attempting to push false, discredited and disproved theories about alleged Russian involvement, a number of important points were raised.
Comey’s core statement was that broadly, the Russian Federation traditionally has sought to interfere in American political processes as part of an overall goal to degrade confidence in democratic processes. Mr. Comey clarified that the FBI did not have any judgement about whether Russian attempts had any kind of actual effect upon the election. While the Russian government was opposed to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, Comey clarified that they did not intend to assist the Trump campaign specifically. Furthermore, Comey stated that by as early as August, the FBI had determined that the Russian government expected Trump to lose the election. He further clarified that Russia did not at any time deal directly with Wikileaks during the election cycle.
When asked about reports by former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper that Russia did not alter any vote tallies and former CIA Director Michael Morell that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mr. Comey stated that he agreed with the broad premises of the two statements. When asked about whether or not the FBI considered trips to foreign countries, meetings with foreign leaders and photos taken with foreign dignitaries, Comey said that the FBI would require additional contextual evidence to declare such activity to be of interest to investigators.
Interestingly, Comey stated that Russian efforts online to degrade American confidence in democratic institutions were obvious, as if Russia “wanted to get caught.” It has been well documented by sources such as the Kapersky Lab and proven in Wikileaks’ Vault 7 release that American intelligence agencies repurpose Russian online tools and attack methods to frame the Russian Federation. Given evidence that organizations within the U.S. Government have been proven to have meddled in the 2016 American presidential elections, Comey’s testimony raises further questions about who exactly may have been responsible for major security breaches in late 2016.
The remainder of the meeting was marked by various members of the House pushing disproven and discredited conspiracy theories which have appeared in the American press, including that no Republican emails were released during the election and that the entirety of the leaks released in 2016 targeted the Democratic Party. Certain Congressmen also continued to cite the discredited and apparently forged Buzzfeed “dossier” claiming to show alleged links between Donald Trump and the Russian government. The meeting concluded with Representatives Trey Gowdy (SC) and Devin Nunes (CA) complaining that Mr. Comey’s testimony was overly vague, had “created a vacuum” in public perception of claimed Russian influence in the election and put a “great cloud” over Congress as they attempted to investigate.