FBI Director James Comey refused to reveal whether the bureau is investigating ties between Russia and associates of President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday (10 January). Comey appeared with other intelligence chiefs in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Comey did not answer a question from Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon and member of the committee, about investigations into Trump's ties to Russia, saying he "would never comment on investigations, whether we have one or not". According to Foreign Policy, Wyden countered: "I think the American people have a right to know this."
Senator Angus King, an Independent from Maine, reprimanded Comey for his response, noting how ironic his refusal was. Just days before the election, Comey revealed that he was reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. The probe produced no new evidence but proved devastating to Clinton's campaign.
According to NPR, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, along with Comey and others, revealed that Russia's intelligence agencies compromised the networks of state-level Republicans but not the Republican National Convention (RNC) or Trump's campaign. The spy bosses told the committee that Russia "harvested" information from Republicans but that it collected "old stuff" and targeted RNC websites that were no longer being used.
Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, asked Clapper whether Russians have the ability to release information about Republicans in the future, even if it is old material. Clapper responded: "Sure".
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, brought up the case of veteran Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who was accused of making and having child pornography on his computer by the Crown Prosecution Service. His case was delayed when the prosecution requested more time to review an independent forensic report on what had been found on his computers and how an unidentified third party may have put it there, The New York Times reported.
Bukovsky claims the photos were planted by Russia's government.
Rubio asked what stopped Russians from doing something similar to a member of Congress. "It is certainly well within both their technical competence and their potential intent to do something like that," Clapper responded.
The hearing happened hours before CNN released an explosive report about a two-page summary presented to President Obama and Trump about his team's alleged ties to Russia.
The summary, which was partly based on a compilation of memos by a MI6 agent, also claimed Russia had compromising personal and financial material on Trump. The president-elect has rejected the report as "Fake news!"