Today in a hearing with the House Select Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that his agency is in fact investigating ties between Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Trump campaign.
The special hearing on Russian election interference is open to the public, streaming live on C-SPAN and other news networks, but is limited in its ability to disclose details due to the ongoing nature of the investigation. Still, Comey made a major confirmation right off the bat:
“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counter intelligence mission is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. 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’s comments confirm speculation that such an investigation exists, a fact that had not previously been decisively confirmed. Predictably, the FBI director was unable to comment on specific individuals under investigation, though he did disclose that the investigation began in July 2016, more than three months before the U.S. election.
A handful of the Trump campaign’s formal and informal associates are thought to have connections to the Russian government, including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, suspected to have extensive business ties to pro-Russia actors in Ukraine and former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, who appears to have communicated with the hacking entity known as Guccifer 2.0, widely thought to be Russian intelligence. And of course, former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn resigned last month after revelations about his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
While the House hearing is ongoing, the American public is unlikely to learn substantial details at this time, but Comey’s confirmation of such an investigation is more substance than many expected.