Himes, Intelligence Committee informed of Russia investigation

FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers appeared before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday for lengthy testimony that included the revealing of an ongoing investigation into ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.

Congressman Jim Himes, who represents most of Fairfield County including Darien, is a member of the committee and had the opportunity to question Comey and Rogers. Himes held a conference call for reporters late Monday afternoon to discuss the events of the day and take questions.

“Comey took the opportunity to do something not unprecedented, but unusual, to confirm the investigation,” Himes began. Comey said the FBI is, “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.”

After disclosing that the investigation was happening, Comey was unable to answer many specific questions asked by the committee as it would be commenting on an ongoing investigation.

Himes also sounded happy to hear Comey and Rogers, “put a stake in the absurd idea that Barack Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower.”

This idea was first mentioned by Trump on twitter, alleging that the former president had Trump Tower surveilled illegally in the months leading up the to election. When no evidence was provided, the idea was floated that Obama actually had the British intelligence community do the wiretapping, which Rogers confirmed to be untrue today. Comey also told the committee that no support for Trump’s tweets had been found anywhere in the FBI, and that the Department of Justice came to the same conclusion.

The United Kingdom and the United States are both part of Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance which also includes Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

“We work together against common threats, and we do not spy on each other’s citizens,” Himes said.

As the hearings went on, Comey and Rogers would not comment specifically on impacts of Russian hacking into the election process, as that has not specifically been part of what they do, rather they simply looked at what had been done to interfere. Trump tweeted, during the proceedings, that “the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.”

Himes saw this tweet, and immediately asked Comey and Rogers to clarify if this is what they had just said.

“We’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it’s not something we looked at,” said Comey, adding, “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today because we have no information on that subject.”

Himes spoke to reporters about this afterwards, saying, “I did take the opportunity to, in real time, ask comey and rogers about the president's replay of their position, and they basically refuted in real time.”

Himes said this has damaged the credibility of the president.

“If you can’t trust the president’s word, if his people are desperate to make a distinction between when you can take him literally and when you don’t, how do we believe him when he says there's a threat to the country, or we have to go to war, or pay more taxes,” Himes asked.

Himes also spoke about where he’d like to see the investigation and work go from here. Paul Manafort was a name that came up a great deal during the hearings, but Comey and Rogers would not comment on the role played, if any, by the former campaign manager of Trump in the Russian interference.

Himes, speaking about Trump, said, “he’ll attack anyone. Meryl Streep, Australia, the cast of Hamilton, but he won't attack, in fact he defends, Russia. There's a huge question mark about why that would be so.”

This afternoon when asked about Manafort, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Manafort, “played a very limited role for a limited time,” in the campaign, adding that Manafort, “was someone brought on in June and by the middle of August he was no longer with the campaign.”

Manafort was first hired by the Trump campaign in March, and became campaign chairman on May 19, staying in that role through August, a period of time that included the GOP convention.

Himes added the names of Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Michael Flynn as men he would like to appear as part of the investigation.

As the conference closed, Himes expressed gratitude to both Comey and Rogers for appearing and answering as best as they could. “We’re a committee, we don’t have dozens of agents,” Himes said, adding, “It was gratifying to know we aren't doing this all by our lonesome.”