Throughout his testimony Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey repeatedly stressed the serious implications of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He argued that the issue of Russian meddling it not about politics, but about the credibility of the American government.
Toward the beginning of the hearing, Comey said that he has no doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and that Russian government officials were aware of the meddling.
He later stressed that Russian interference is very real, countering President Donald Trump’s constant dismissals of the Russia probe.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked Comey about the way Trump has discussed Russia’s election meddling, noting that the President has described Russian interference “as a hoax and as fake news.” In response, Comey stressed that there’s no doubt that the Russian government tried to interfere in the 2016 election and that the conclusion on Russia’s actions is “about as unfake as you can possibly get.”
“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active measures campaign driven from the top of the government. There is no fuzz on that,” Comey said.
“It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community — and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence — it’s not a close call,” he continued. “That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get and is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that. Because this is about America, not about any particular party.”
Asked if it was a “hostile act by the Russian government,” Comey replied, “Yes.”
Later in his testimony, Comey emphasized that Russia’s attempt to meddle in the election is a threat to the United States and should rise above politics. He delivered a passionate monologue about just how grave a threat Russia’s meddling is to America.
“The reason this is such a big deal is we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful,” Comey said. “But we’re talking about a foreign government that — using technical intrusion, lots of other methods — tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act.”
“That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally,” he continued. “They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. And so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about. And they will be back, because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill and they don’t like it.”
The former FBI director also noted that Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election was part of an ongoing effort targeted at the U.S.
“It’s a long-term practice of theirs. It stepped up a notch in a significant way in ’16. They’ll be back,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He stressed that the probe into Russian election meddling is also about prevention of future attacks, saying that Russia is not a threat to any one political party, but to the country as a whole.
Comey also addressed some of the details of the the FBI’s investigation into Russian hacking attempts. He said there was a “massive” effort to target government agencies and non-governmental groups, estimating that hundreds, possibly around 1,000, entities were targeted. He also said that the FBI never examined the hardware that was hacked at the Democratic National Committee’s, but that the FBI got the information they needed from a third party.