During Comey Appearance, Democrats Focus on Russia While Republicans Ask About Leaks

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Republicans and Democrats of the House Intelligence Committee both questioned FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers on Russian activities Monday, but the parties spotlighted very different issues during the hearing.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, right, and ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff speak to the media about the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, at the U.S. Capitol on March 15, 2017. (Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Comey revealed that the FBI was investigating whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere with the US election, and he declared that there was no evidence to support Trump’s claims that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap on his building. Separately, the committee’s top Democrat, California Rep. Adam Schiff, recited allegations from former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele regarding Trump campaign communications with Russia.

While Democrats highlighted Trump’s allegation that his predecessor wiretapped him and Trump campaign aides’ alleged collusion with Russian operatives, GOP members grilled the two officials on who leaked information of the US investigation into Russia’s communications with the campaign of President Donald Trump.

Republicans focus on leaks

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, and Rep. Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican, led a series of questions focused on trying to uncover who leaked information detailing former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s calls to the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

In one exchange, Gowdy raised questions about former President Barack Obama’s awareness of the calls, seeming to imply that Obama might have played a role in the dissemination of the call’s details.

“Did you brief President Obama on — I’ll just ask you, did you brief President Obama on any call involving Michael Flynn?” Gowdy asked.

Comey said he could not comment on that.

“Who normally in the NSA would make the decision to unmask?” Rooney pressed Rogers.

Democrats focused on links to Russia

House Democrats on the panel hammered away on reports of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russian officials as well as the President’s tweets alleging his predecessor wiretapped his phone.

House Democrats routinely pressed the focus back to which Trump advisers were in communication with Russian officials.

“I cannot comment on that,” Comey said frequently, as Schiff asked him about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump adviser Roger Stone and others.

In a rapid-fire series of exchanges, Schiff, Rep. Jim Himes and Rep. Teri Sewell, all pressed Comey on the details of the FBI’s investigation into Trump aides. Comey batted them back, saying he could not provide specifics.

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