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FBI, NSA chiefs refuse to deny Trump-Russia collusion

20 March 2017, 11:16 | Taylor George

In his opening statement, Comey confirmed - for the first time publicly - that the FBI was investigating "the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election", an inquiry which includes "individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts".

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 US election because her campaign was poorly-managed, and not due to alleged Russian interference, US Congressman Joe Wilson told Sputnik on Monday. He said "the real story that Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information".

Russian Federation denies attempting to influence the election. Comey and Rogers deflected many questions about specific parts of the probe or surveillance activities, saying they could not publicly discuss sensitive information.

Trump spiced up the drama in recent weeks by accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping him and his presidential campaign - though numerous lawmakers and senior intelligence officials denied Trump's unsubstantiated claims.

Meanwhile, Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chair and a Republican from California, said at the outset of the hearing that Trump may still have been the subject of surveillance during the election. Trump has often complained about leaks of information that have cast a wide shadow on his performance, but did not say specifically what disclosure he was concerned about.

The panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, told NBC's Meet The Press that Trump's wiretapping claims are "patently false, and the wrecking ball it created now has banged into" USA allies, including Germany and Great Britain in recent days.

"The New York Times" reported in February that USA intelligence agents had intercepted calls showing repeated contacts between Trump's team and top Russian intelligence officials in the year preceding the United States vote.

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Republicans on the committee used their questions mostly to press Rogers and Comey about leaks of potentially classified information and surveillance of US citizens.

The response amounted to Trump's first direct public response to Comey's testimony, in which he also confirmed the Department of Justice was looking into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government. "We have no information that supports them". However, Comey said he could not make an assurance that leaks will be investigated.

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee differed in public statements on the evidence of collusion Sunday.

MATT LAUER: And the hearings begin with opening statements from Devin Nunes and now Adam Schiff, who you're watching right here and we've got Pete Williams, our Justice correspondent, watching the proceedings so far.

And again, that's another political point that the President and his allies on Capitol Hill want to press, it's not something that the NSA director can really address and he said I'm really not the guy to talk about this.

Accusations of Russian Federation connections have dogged the Trump administration since he took office in January.

Trump fired his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, last month after he failed to disclose contacts with Russia's ambassador before Trump took office on January 20. Sessions, a former senator and Trump campaign advisor, admitted that he met with the ambassador during the campaign but said he did so in his capacity as a lawmaker.



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