In long-awaited testimony, FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee Monday morning that his agency was conducting an ongoing investigation into whether members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.
More than a hundred people crowded into the stately committee hearing room to hear Comey’s testimony, which is also supposed to address the veracity of Trump’s unproven claim that President Obama wiretapped his phone.
But amid the clatter of dozens of camera shutters, Comey opened by addressing Washington’s worst-kept secret: that the intelligence community is looking into the myriad of connections between current and former Trump allies and the Russian government.
“As you know, our practice is not to confirm existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters,” Comey told the committee. “But in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so, as Justice Department policy has recognized. This is one of those circumstances.”
“I’ve been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” he continued. “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.”
Comey noted that he cannot reveal much more, including the timeline of the investigation or which individuals the bureau is targeting. But he did confirm that the investigation began in late July, close to the time when Comey publicly commented on an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.
“I know that is externally frustrating to some folks, but it is the way it has to be,” Comey said Monday, adding that he hopes the American people understand the FBI’s constraints. “I promise you we will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
This post has been updated.
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.