James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017
The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017
The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017
FBI Director James Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, will appear this morning before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to publicly discuss Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Comey is also likely to be asked about Donald Trump’s claim—rejected by everyone in the position to know—that President Obama had ordered Trump wiretapped during the presidential campaign.
During the elections, U.S. intelligence agencies said Russia had interfered with the presidential election. (They also said it was unlikely the Russians had succeeded in altering the results of the vote.) Couple this with allegations made during the campaign that Trump and his aides had links to Russian officials and intelligence agencies. Trump has steadfastly denied these allegations, and pointed out he has no business interests in Russia. His aides made similar claims, but since the election the extent of their links with Russian officials have become known—they even forced the resignation of Mike Flynn, Trump’s national-security adviser, after just days on the job.
As such claims continued to emerge, Trump said on Twitter that Obama had wiretapped him. Trump’s own intelligence agencies, Comey, as well as the Republican chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees—not to mention Obama—have said no evidence exists to support Trump’s allegations. Trump has insisted, however, they are true, and his spokesman, Sean Spicer, citing a Fox News analyst, suggested it was GCHQ, the British spy agency, that carried out the wiretap at Obama’s behest. GCHQ, usually a circumspect agency, issued an outright denial rubbishing the claims. The British prime minister’s spokesman said last week Spicer had apologized—though Spicer himself said there was no apology.
At the center of all this is Comey. The FBI director was reviled by Democrats during the election for the release of a letter, which they believed cost Hillary Clinton the election. But now, Comey, if not the hero of the Democrats, is certainly being urged by Democrats not only to debunk Trump’s claims on Obama’s wiretapping, but also to provide more details on the investigation into possible links between Trump and his aides and Russian officials.
Comey has been circumspect in the past when asked about the FBI’s investigation, saying he “would never comment on investigations—whether we have one or not— in an open forum like this.” Today’s hearing is public, so expect more of the same. Comey has also briefed lawmakers privately. The nature of those briefings is unknown.
Trump’s tweets this morning are an attempt to take charge of the narrative. He cites James Clapper, who served as director of national intelligence under Obama, as saying there’s no evidence “Potus colluded with Russia.” (Clapper has also rejected Trump’s wiretap claim, which the president insists is true.) Trump dismisses possible links to Russia with his apparently favorite insult “FAKE NEWS,” pointing out “everyone knows it.” Trump also points out that the Democrats “made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign,”—while the veracity of the first part of that claim is hard to demonstrate, that of the second part, about the Democrats running a “terrible campaign,” is not. Trump then goes onto say the “real story” is the leak of classified information. His exhortation to “find leaker now” is but a continuation of Obama’s own actions against national-security leakers. In that sense at least, Trump and his predecessor have much in common.