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FBI Director Confirms Investigation Into Trump-Russia Links


Center stage on Capitol Hill today - Russian election mischief, intelligence leaks and President Trump's explosive accusations against his predecessor. In a marathon hearing, the House Intelligence Committee held its first public airing of these issues.


Today we learned the FBI is investigating Russia's meddling in last year's election, including whether it coordinated with the Trump campaign. We also heard that the FBI and the Justice Department have no information backing President Trump's claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Two witnesses were seated before the House Intelligence panel. FBI Director James Comey and Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency. But before they'd said even a word, Devin Nunes, the committee's Republican chairman, wanted there to be no confusion about where he stood regarding President Trump's tweet that he was wiretapped by former President Obama.


DEVIN NUNES: Let me be clear. I've been saying this for several weeks. We know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it's still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.

WELNA: That said, Nunes also made clear he wanted this probe to find out who was spilling secrets about the Trump administration.


NUNES: We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice.

WELNA: But Adam Schiff, the panel's top Democrat, wanted answers to a much more politically explosive question.


ADAM SCHIFF: Many of the - Trump's campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is of course no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime. It would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history.

WELNA: And yet there were even more basic questions, such as whether the FBI would acknowledge that it's carrying out an investigation into Russia's activities and possible ties to the Trump campaign. FBI Director Comey at first sounded reticent.


JAMES COMEY: As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters. But in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so.

WELNA: This, Comey added, was one of those circumstances. He said the Justice Department had authorized him to confirm that the FBI is indeed investigating Russia's efforts to interfere in last year's presidential election.


COMEY: And that 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. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

WELNA: That prompted a pointed question from Schiff. Committee


SCHIFF: Director Comey, was the president's statement that Obama had his wires tapped in Trump Tower a true statement?

COMEY: With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.

WELNA: Committee Republicans, for their part, seemed more interested in establishing that Russia had not changed voting outcomes in various states. Chairman Nunes pressed NSA Director Rogers on the issue.


NUNES: So you have no intelligence that suggests or evidence that suggests any votes were changed.

MICHAEL ROGERS: I've nothing generated by the National Security Agency, sir.

NUNES: Director Comey, do you have any evidence at the FBI that any votes were changed in the states that I mentioned to Admiral Rogers?


WELNA: With little indicating Republicans and Democrats could themselves come together and get to the bottom of these issues, Alabama Democrat Terri Sewell turned to Comey and his FBI probe.


TERRI SEWELL: How long does a counterintelligence investigation like this usually take? You said that it started in July.

COMEY: There is no usually. It's hard - it's impossible to say, frankly.

WELNA: No word either on when this congressional probe might wrap up. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.