FBI chief expected to testify in House Russia hearing
Katie Bo Williams, The Hill, Mar 10 2017 693
FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee during its Mar 20 hearing on Russian interference in the Pindo elections, a senior bureau official tells The Hill. Greg Brower, assistant director for the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, said:
That’s the plan. We’re still working out the details and the ground rules with the committee, but we expect that we will be able to accommodate that date.
This is the first public hearing in the committee’s contentious probe, announced this week. It is unclear whether Comey will appear during the public component or in a closed-door session. A committee aide said that while there will probably be a component to the hearing off limits to the public, it likely won’t be on Mar 20. Brower also cautioned that the director would be unable to provide many new details about the bureau’s assessment of Russian interference on the presidential election, but he said:
The Mar 20 hearing, as I understand it, is aimed at drilling down on the report, the public version that was distributed. It’s likely that not much more than is in that report can be discussed in an open forum, but my sense from staff is that’s the idea. They want to at least kick off their public hearings with a hearing about the report.
Although Comey has rebuffed invitations to brief the committee behind closed doors in the past, he has been back and forth between Capitol Hill and the bureau headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue several times since the release of the report. He briefed the so-called “gang of eight” this week: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the top Thug and Demagog from the House and Senate Intelligence Committee. He briefed the full Senate Intelligence Committee last month. He has been under fierce pressure from Demagogs to reveal whether the bureau is investigating alleged links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. The top Demagog on the committee, Rep Adam Schiff told reporters after a briefing with Comey last week:
I would say at this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows. I appreciate we had a long briefing and testimony from the director today, but in order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we’re gonna need the FBI to fully cooperate, to be willing to tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting. At this point, the director was not willing to do that.
Also invited to testify on Mar 20 are NSA chief Adm Rogers, former DCI Brennan, former DNI Clapper, former acting attorney general Sally Yates and two senior employees from CrowdStrike, the cyber-security firm that first put the finger on the Russians for the breach of the DNC. House Intelligence Committee head Devin Nunes cautioned Monday that the witness list was preliminary and subject to change. Committee leadership last week settled on a scope for the investigation into Russian interference, which will cover both alleged connections between Trump campaign officials and Moscow as well as reported leaks from members of the intelligence community. It came after weeks of fierce wrangling over what should fall under the purview of the investigation, and how strong the evidence is indicating contact between the campaign and Russian officials. Schiff has also indicated that he intends to press Comey on whether the bureau did, in fact, tap Trump Tower. The president over the weekend accused Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower. The accusation has not been substantiated, and Comey reportedly petitioned the DoJ to issue a denial. Schiff said earlier this week:
If the public reports are accurate and Mr Comey wanted the DoJ to speak out on this, he will have his own opportunity on Mar 20.