WASHINGTON — Director James B. Comey confirmed for the first time Monday that the FBI is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian authorities during the 2016 election campaign.
Comey said the investigation was examining whether “there was any coordination” between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Comey suggested that the case was not a criminal investigation but was being conducted as part of FBI’s “counterintelligence mission,” aimed at preventing Russia intelligence operations against the U.S.
“I can promise you we will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.
The FBI does not usually publicly confirm its investigations. Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the investigation in this case.
“I cannot say more about what we are doing,” Comey said.
Although the FBI investigation has been reported for weeks, the FBI has not previously confirmed it. He did so in the first congressional hearing into Russia’s role in the presidential race.
In his opening statement, Comey did not discuss President Donald Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama had ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower.
Trump first accused Obama of wiretapping him on March 4 and has refused to back down even though Obama, the heads of both GOP-led congressional intelligence committees and the former director of national intelligence said it wasn’t true.
Comey’s testimony came a day after the House intelligence panel’s leaders said that documents provided to Congress by the Justice Department on Friday did not substantiate Trump’s claims of wiretapping or surveillance at Trump Tower.
“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No … there never was,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Nunes said no evidence indicated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a panel of judges that must approve warrants required to conduct wiretaps for intelligence purposes, had ever done so for Trump Tower.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the panel’s top Democrat, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that investigators had searched deep to find evidence for Trump’s claims but had come up dry.
“We are at the bottom of this,” he said. “There is nothing at the bottom.”
Trump’s continued insistence that he was wiretapped by Obama, despite the lack of any evidence, led to a diplomatic tiff last week with the British government, one of America’s closest allies.
After White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday cited a Fox News commentator who claimed that Obama had secretly used a British spy agency to eavesdrop on Trump, the British Embassy in Washington complained to the White House, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman publicly denied any such activity. Fox News also said it had no evidence to support the claim.
Trump did not back down on Friday, however, alluding to it again during a White House news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She did not appear amused to be pulled into his imbroglio.