COMEY: That's fair to say and one of our counterintelligence missions is to try to understand who are those people and are they acting on behalf of the Russian government, those Russian citizens.
HIMES: Is it generally true that there is a category of Russian oligarchs that are likely part of this close-knit cabal?
COMEY: In a general sense.
HIMES: And if they go way back with Vladimir Putin, do the chances increase that they might be connected with the KGB, as is asserted by Professor Dawisha?
COMEY: The longevity of the association can be a consideration.
HIMES: And the KGB was the Russian intelligence service under the Soviet Union, right?
COMEY: Correct, former...
HIMES: And the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union?
HIMES: Right. I'll just observe, Renault Akhmetov, a steel and iron (ph) or a magnate or oligarch, is the richest man in Ukraine and a strong Putin ally. He was the one who reportedly recommended Paul Manafort to Yanukovych.
Mr. Comey, last set of questions from me, I have a report that appeared in CNN yesterday. The headline is, "Former Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort Wanted for Questioning in Ukraine Corruption Case." And I -- I raise this with you because the story is told of Paul Manafort acting on behalf of Ukraine's former justice miniature -- minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych, which who was the justice minister under the previous pro-Russian regime who -- and I'll just read a segment from the story here.
Who was involved in jailing the former Prime Minister Tymoshenko who was the main political rival of the Kremlin backed President Viktor Yanukovych who Manafort advised until he was deposed in 2014. Tymoshenko was released from jail at the same time that Yanukovych was ousted. Many saw her sentencing as politically motivated by the pro- Russian government.
In response to the deterioration international climate, Ukrainian prosecutors say Manafort drafted a public relations strategy that included hiring Skadden Arps, an American law firm, to review the Tymoshenko case. And show the conviction had a sound legal basis. The story goes on to talk about the transfer of over $1 million, potentially, illegally from Ukrainian coffers (ph) to Skadden Arps.
And the reason I bring all this up with you is because the story also says and it appears to have been confirmed by the Department of Justice that the current Ukraine regime, hardly a friend of the Russians. And very much targeted by the Russians has made seven requests to the United States government's -- the United States government for assistance under the MLA treaty in securing the assistance of Paul Manafort as part of this on anti-corruption case. And in fact, the story says that you were presented personally with a letter asking for that assistance.
So my question Director Comey is, is that all true? Have you been asked to provide assistance to the current Ukrainian government with respect to Paul Manafort? And how do you intend to respond to that request?
COMEY: It's not something I can comment on. I can say generally, we have a very strong relationship and cooperation in the criminal and national security areas with our Ukrainian partners, but I can't talk about the particular matter.
HIMES: The story says that the DOJ confirmed that there have been requests for assistance on this matter. You can't go as far as -- as confirming that in fact there have been these requests made?
COMEY: If they've done that, I would need them to do it again. I -- I can't comment on it.
HIMES: OK. Well, I appreciate that and with that I will yield back the remainder of my time to the ranking member.
SCHIFF: And I yield to Terri Sewell.
SEWELL: Thank you Mr. Ranking Member.
My questions this morning really revolve around the resignation of the former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Director Comey, much as been made about Russia's historical interference with political elections around the world meant to cause discord and -- and -- and disunity especially in Western alliance's. Does the FBI generally assume that Russian ambassadors to the United States like Ambassador Kislyak, are at least overtly, collecting intelligence on influential Americans, especially political leaders.
COMEY: Ms. Sewell, that's not something I can answer in an open setting.
SEWELL: Am I right that in the -- that in the Russian playbook -- that it's in the Russian playbook to use diplomats and business people and Russian intelligence officers, whether declared or not to, collect intelligence on influential Americans for the purpose of affecting U.S. policy?
COMEY: I can answer as a general matter. Nation states that are adversaries of United States use traditional intelligence officers, sometimes used intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover, use people we call co-opties (ph), maybe a private citizens, students, academics, business people, all manner of human beings can be used in a -- in an intelligence collection operation. But I'm not gonna talk about the particular.
SEWELL: Would someone like Ambassador Kislyak Play that type of role for Russia?
COMEY: I can't say here.
SEWELL: The declassified January intelligence community assessment report that your agency helped to draft, the report that's entitled assessing Russian activities and intentions in the recent U.S. elections specifically states that, quote, "Since the Cold War, Russian intelligence efforts related to the United States elections have primarily focused on foreign intelligence collections that could help Russian leaders understand a new U.S. administration's plans and priorities," end quote.
So knowing what we know about Russia's efforts and the role of the Russian ambassador, Director Comey, would you be concerned if any one of your agents had a private meeting with the Russian ambassador?
COMEY: If an FBI agent had a private meeting with a Russian government employee of any kind, it would be concerning and I assume by private, one that's not disclosed or part of their operational activity, yes.
SEWELL: That's right. And would you expect that agent to report that meeting?
SEWELL: Admiral Rogers, similar question. If -- would you be concerned if one of your intelligence officers had a private meeting with the Russian ambassador? And would you expect that intelligence officer to report that meeting?
ROGERS: Disclosures of interactions with foreign governments is a requirement for all our employees to include myself, for example.
SEWELL: I ask these questions because on at least four occasions that I can count, Mr. Flynn, a three-star general and a former intelligence officer, someone with influence over the U.S. policy and someone with knowledge of state secrets and the incoming national security advisor, communicated with and met with the Russian ambassador and failed to disclose it.
So I ask you directors, if you wouldn't stand for your own staff to do this, why should we, the American people accept Michael Flynn doing it?
COMEY: Ms. Sewell, I'll let Mike Rogers take it next but I -- I don't -- I can't speak to what the disclosure obligations are for other people in the government so it's hard for me to answer that. I can answer and I answered, I hope accurately with respect to one of the FBI special agents.
ROGERS: And I likewise would answer the same way in terms of the NSA.
SEWELL: I yield back...
NUNES: ... gentleman's time -- gentleman's time has expired. I'll yield myself 15 minutes.
Director Comey, you announced this morning that there'll be an investigation into Trump associates possible and President Trump and anyone around the campaign and any association with the Russian government.
If this committee or anyone else for that matter, someone from the public, comes with information to you about the Hillary Clinton campaign or their associates or someone from the Clinton Foundation, will you add that to your investigation? They have ties to Russian intelligence services, Russian agents, would that be something of interest to you?
COMEY: People bring us information about what they think is improper unlawful activity of any kind, we will evaluate it. Not just in -- not just in this context. Folks send us stuff all the time. They should keep going that.
NUNES: Do you think it's possible that the Russians would not be trying to infiltrate Hillary Clinton's campaign, get information on Hillary Clinton and try to get to people that are around that campaign or the Clinton Foundation?
COMEY: I'm not prepared to comment about the particular campaigns but the Russians in general are always trying to understand who the future leaders might be and what levers of influence there might be on them.
NUNES: I just hope that if -- if information does surface about the other campaigns, not even just Hillary Clinton's but any other campaigns, that you would take that serious also if the Russians were trying to infiltrate those campaigns around them.
COMEY: Of course we would.
NUNES: OK. I yield to Mr. Conaway.
CONAWAY: Thanks, Chairman. Gentlemen, thanks for being here.
Admiral Rogers, you'd mentioned analytic standards earlier in the conversation. Are those standards the same for all intelligence analysts across the various agencies?
ROGERS: There's a broad set of intelligence community promulgated standards for all of us and then there are specific issues associated, for example, with a particular authority that you're using to collect the information in the first place.
CONAWAY: So, gentleman, same thing your -- your agency -- your analysts would have I think similar type standards?
COMEY: Correct. That's one of the really good things that's happened since 9/11, especially since 2004 is the adoption of a common set of tradecraft provisions.
CONAWAY: So, on a CPA and we have generally astounded -- generally accepted accounting standards which are promulgated across a variety of things. Are those same standards publicly promulgated as -- but generally disseminated through all of your analysts, I would assume would have some sort of a test that they know those standards?
ROGERS: I think the specifics of the IC promulgated standards are classified but I could take that one for the record.
CONAWAY: When the IC attributes a hacking to a particular actor, you do that through generally forensic evidence. But when it comes to try to determine intent foreign leaders, can you walk us through how the NSA does that or the FBI does that?
ROGERS: We assess the range of information that we've collect -- collected in an attempt to generate understanding as to not only what has occurred, but part of the intelligence professional -- profession is also trying to understand why, what was the intent. We'll use the range of information we have available to us, while we're primarily a single source organization.
It's one reason why organizations like CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, which take multiple sources try to put together a complete picture. So we're just one component of a broader effort.
CONAWAY: Director Comey, anything different than that?
COMEY: No, it's about putting together a puzzle. Sometimes from forensics alone, you can get a pretty good indication as to what they must be intending to accomplish, other times requires human sources and additional a signals intelligence to give you that sense.
CONAWAY: So both you agree, though, it's rarely a precise art -- or a precise science of determining intent of any foreign leader.
ROGERS: That's correct.
COMEY: All of intelligence work requires judgment. That's at the at the center of it.
ROGERS: But I will say in some cases, it's a much clearer case than in others. There are some...
CONAWAY: It depends on the sources you have inside a particular foreign leader's shop.
ROGERS: I'm not going to get into specifics.
CONAWAY: Just in general. If you have somebody whose next door neighbor -- never mind. Pivoting to the January 7 -- January 6 intelligence community assessment, both your agencies agree with the assessment that the Russian's goal was to undermine the public faith in U.S. democratic process. Is that still your assessments?
CONAWAY: Same assessment said that the Russian's goal was to -- wanted to denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency and that Putin wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he publicly blamed her since 2011 for insighting mass protests against his regime in late 2011, early 2012. You both still agree with that assessment?
CONAWAY: And then finally, Admiral Rogers, that assessment went on to say that president Putin and the Russian government aspired to help president -- I guess he would have been candidate Trump at the time -- but president-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton. You had a lower...
ROGERS: Confidence level.
CONAWAY: ... confidence level. Is that still the case?
ROGERS: Yes, sir.
CONAWAY: Can you tell the group why you were... ROGERS: I'm not going to get into specifics in an unclassified forum but for me, it boiled down to the level and nature of the sourcing on that one particular judgment was slightly different to me than the others.
COMEY: To be clear, Mr. Conaway, we all agreed with that judgment.
ROGERS: We all agreed with the judgment.
CONAWAY: Right, right, right. But you really agreed and he almost really agreed.
COMEY: Not term out folks use, but I...
CONAWAY: Director Comey, in terms of laying out those three assessment and whether or not the IC was consistent in its view of those three assessments across the entire campaign. And we walked through kind of the FBI's walk down that path.
Did -- as of early December of '16, did the FBI assess that the active measures were to undermine -- by the Russians were to undermine the faith in U.S. Democratic process as you come to that conclusion by early December?
COMEY: I think that's right, December of last year.
CONAWAY: Sixteen, yes sir.
COMEY: I think we're at that point, yes.
CONAWAY: And then active measures conducted against Secretary Clinton, to denigrate her, hurt her campaign and also undermined her presidency?
CONAWAY: All right. And then, the conclusion that active measures were taken specifically to help President Trump's campaign, you had that -- by early December, you already had that conclusion?
COMEY: Correct, that they wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him. I think all three we were confident in, at least as early as December.
CONAWAY: OK. The -- the paragraph that gives me a little concern there, in terms of just the timing of when all of that occurred because I'm not sure if we went back and got that exact same January assessment six months earlier, it would've looked the same. Because, you say, when we further assessed Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
Any idea when that clear preference in the analysis, when did that get into the lexicon of whether you talk back and forth among yourselves on a -- on a classified basis?
COMEY: I don't know for sure, but I think that was a fairly easy judgment for the community. He -- Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much, that the flipside of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.
CONAWAY: Yeah and that and that my work on Saturday afternoon when the -- my wife's Red Raiders are playing the Texas Longhorns. She really likes the Red Raiders. But all the rest of the time, I mean the logic is that because he really didn't like president -- the Candidate Clinton, that he automatically liked Trump. That assessment's based on what?
COMEY: Well, it's based on more than that. But part of it is and we're not getting into the details of it here, but part of it is the logic. Whoever the Red Raiders are playing, you want the Red Raiders to win, by definition, you want their opponent to lose.
CONAWAY: I know, but this says that -- that you wanted both of them -- you wanted her to lose and wanted him to win. Is that what you were saying?
COMEY: Right, they're inseparable -- right, it's a two -- it's a two person...
CONAWAY: Right, right.
COMEY: ... event.
CONAWAY: I got you. So I'm just wondering when you decided you wanted him to win?
COMEY: Well, logically when he wanted her to lose, wanted...
CONAWAY: No, no, no, I'm not talking about him, Putin, I got that. I got that. But the question is, we're on this clear -- well let me finish up then.
So we go through that sentence about the clear preference for Donald Trump. And we don't know exactly when you guys decided that was the case. Then it says, when it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.
So -- and then election then says, the government -- the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump election chances. So when did they not think she was going to win?
COMEY: Well, the assessment of the Intelligence Committee was, as the summer went on and the polls appeared to show that Secretary Clinton was gonna win, the Russians sort of gave up and simply focused on trying to undermine her, it's your Red Raiders, you know they're not going to win.
So you kind of hope key people on the other team get hurt so they're not such a tough opponent down the road. And so there was at some point...
CONAWAY: Sir, do you believe that the FBI was consistent through early December and on that that was the case. That they -- they assessed that they really wanted Trump to win it and were working to help him win and her lose.
COMEY: Yes, our analysts had a view that I don't believe changed, from late fall through to the report on January 6 that it had those three elements.
CONAWAY: All right. So then on December the 9th, well in advance of the January 6th deal, the -- the Washington Post, put out an article. Their least sentence was that this -- and again, CIA, they're not here today but we'll hopefully have them next week, concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the '16 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency rather than to undermine the confidence in the electoral system. Rather than just undermine it, they don't mention Mrs. Clinton at all.
And then it says to help Trump elected, the U.S. senior briefed on the intelligence position -- that the U.S. -- that U.S. official briefed by -- briefed on intelligence presentation to U.S. Senators said that's the consensus view. How much did it -- this is written by name Adam Intas Elaine (ph) something and Greg Miller. Do they have drafted you last -- the January 6th document for the Intel Committee.
COMEY: I'm sorry.
CONAWAY: Did those writers from the Washington Post help you write the January 6 assessment?
COMEY: No, they did not.
CONAWAY: I wonder how they got almost the exact language on December the 9th.
COMEY: It hadn't been written yet. I don't know. This is the peril of trying to comment on newspaper articles that report to report classified information. I can't say much about them, they're often wrong. CONAWAY: You mentioned earlier in one of our hearings that when anybody uses -- the I can't talk because I'm bound by position anonymity or whatever, that really is code for breaking the law generally, right?
When somebody says I'm talking to a reporter, I'm declassifying secret information, you can't tell -- the reporter can't tell who it is because, as Mr. Gowdy was saying earlier, speaking on condition of anonymity. That really should be interpreted because I'm breaking the law and I don't want to be ousted. It that a fair statement?
COMEY: Sometimes. I think there are other motives behind people requesting anonymity but that can be one of them.
CONAWAY: So it's you're statement to us then that the FBI was consistent in it's assessment that they integrate the U.S. electoral process, hurt Hillary and her potential and current across all of that across all of that, that they intended to help Trump, that's your testimony this morning?
CONAWAY: Thank you. I yield back.
NUNES: Mr. King?
KING: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
If you could yield me a few minutes into the next round -- I'll just start with this -- make the comment.
First of all, let me thank Director Comey and Admiral Rogers for being here today. And for what I believe it's been the cooperative you've always given this committee. So thank you very much for that, for your service.
Director Comey, I think we're in a predicament here today. I understand your situation where you can't comment on the investigation. And yet we've can have various scenarios laid out which can go on for months and months and months without anyone be able to disprove them until the investigation is completed.
I just like to use the example, for instance we could've said that in 2012 President Obama was overheard on microphone telling Medvedev that I'm reelected, tell Vladimir we can work out better arrangements. We know that he ridiculed candidate Romney in the 2012 election when Romney said that he thought Russia still a threat.
And then in 2013 we saw that basically President Obama invited the Russians into Syria when they've been pretty much removed from the Middle East 40 years before. And also as far as aid to Ukraine, far as I recall, the Obama administration always refuse to give the lethal aid to Ukraine and it can be argued that the Republican platform in 2016 was actually stronger than the Democratic platform on that.
So again if we -- if there was investigation going on with the Obama administration, we can lay out all these scenarios and say well that proves something or it might prove something. Until the investigation was completed, that type of almost possibly slanderous comments could be made.
So I would just, again, if -- I'm not asking you to hurry the investigation along, you have to do what you have to do. But I guess I could ask you just in the remaining moments I have in this round, I know that -- I guess it was just two weeks ago that Director Clapper said that as far as he knows, all the evidence he's seen, there's no evidence of any collusion at all between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Now obviously a detailed, exhaustive report was put out talking about Russian influence in the campaign along with the intelligence apparatus had input into that. Do either you or Admiral Rogers have any reason to disagree with the conclusion of General Clapper that there's no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.
COMEY: Mr. King, it's not something I can comment on.
ROGERS: Likewise, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation's conclusions.
KING: But again, you're not going to disagree with General Clapper, you're just not going to comment. And the reason I'm pointing that out is, that's sort of the situation, you know, the other way around that you can't comment on something, often there's inference out there that because a person's name is brought up, because he may have worked with somebody at a certain time, that there's a guilt implied in that so that's one problem.
I'm not in any way being critical of either of you, I'm just saying this is a situation I think can be damaging to the country and does advance the Russian interest of trying to destabilize democracy and cause a lack of confidence in our system.
And with that, I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back.
I recognize Mr. Schiff for 15 minutes.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just have a couple of follow-up questions before I pass to Representative Sewell. It wasn't simply that the Russians had a negative preference against Secretary Clinton, they also had a positive preference for Donald Trump, isn't that correct?
SCHIFF: And I won't ask you to say whether this is an accurate characterization of Mr. Trump, I won't put you in that spot, but would it be logical for the Kremlin to prefer a candidate that disparaged NATO to be president of the United States? COMEY: You're not going to put me in that spot, you said?
COMEY: I'm happy with that. I'm happy with that.
SCHIFF: I'm not going to put you in the spot of answering whether this is an accurate characterization of Mr. Trump's views, but it would be logical for the Kremlin to want someone who had a dim view of NATO. Is that right?
COMEY: All kidding aside, I don't think that's something I should be answering. That's beyond my responsibilities.
SCHIFF: Well, what is the Russian view of NATO. Do they like NATO? Do they want to see NATO strong?
COMEY: Again, I'm sure you have already spoken to people who are greater experts than I but yes, they don't like NATO. They think NATO encircles them and threatens them.
SCHIFF: And would they have a preference for a candidate that expressed an openness to repealing the sanctions over Ukraine?
COMEY: Again, I don't want to get into business of commenting on that. I know...
SCHIFF: Then let me ask you this way, Director. Would they like to see the sanctions on Ukraine go away?
SCHIFF: Would they have a preference for a candidate who expressed open admiration for Putin?
COMEY: Can I help you reformulate the question? Mr. Putin would like people who like him.
SCHIFF: Would they have a preference for a candidate who encouraged Brexit and other departures from Europe? Would they like to see more Brexits?
SCHIFF: And have the Russians in Europe demonstrated a preference for business people as political leaders with the hope that they can entangle them in financial interests or that they may allow their financial interests to take precedence over the interests of the countries in Europe they represent?
COMEY: In our joint report, we recount that the Russians -- that President Putin has expressed a preference for business leaders in leading other governments and mentions Gerhard Schroder and -- I'm going to forget one. Berlusconi because he believes they're people that are more open to negotiation, easier to deal with.
SCHIFF: At this point, let me yield to Representative Sewell.
SEWELL: I'd like to continue my questioning -- the line of questioning on Michael Flynn.
I'm sure you can understand my concern that Mr. Flynn not only failed to disclose the contacts with the Russian ambassador, but he said he did not remember whether he discussed sanctions against Russia with that ambassador and I find that really hard to believe. And wouldn't you think that at the height of our concern about Russian hacking, that Mr. Flynn would have remembered meeting with the Russian ambassador and would have been --and would have told him to stop meddling in our affairs, but that didn't happen, did it?
COMEY: Mrs. Sewell, that's not something I can answer.
SEWELL: Not only did Mr. Flynn not remember talking to the Russian ambassador and not only did he not remember what they talked about, he also appeared to have lied to Vice President-elect Mike Pence all about it.
Now, Mr. Comey, do you think that Mr. Flynn's failure to disclose the communication and contact he had with the Russian ambassador and their topic of conversation along with a blatant lie to Vice President Pence meet the standard for an investigation by the FBI?
COMEY: I have to give you the same answer, I'm not going to comment.
SEWELL: Now, I know, Director Comey, that you probably can't comment on this as well but I think it's really important that we review a short timeline and -- that's based on press reportings because we need to get this for the public record, I think.
So on December 25, 2016, Mr. Flynn reportedly exchanged text messages with the Russian ambassador. On December 28, 2016, Mr. Flynn reportedly spoke on the phone with the Russian ambassador. By then, it was pretty clear that the Obama administration was going to take actions against Russia. On December 29, 2016, Mr. Flynn reportedly spoke on the phone with the Russian ambassador again.
That day, the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian operatives from the United States and announced new sanctions. We also know from press reportings that sometime in December, Mr. Flynn met in person with the Russian ambassador at Trump Tower and that Mr. Trump's son- in-law, Jared Kushner was also there. The purpose of the meeting was to quote "Establish a line of communication" end quote, with the Kremlin.
I should add that the White House and Mr. Flynn didn't disclose this December face-to-face meeting until this month. On January 20 -- January 12, sorry -- 2017, press reported that Mr. Flynn contacted the Russian ambassador again.
And on January 15, 2015 vice President-elect, Mike Pence stated on several Sunday morning shows regarding Mr. Flynn's conversation with ambassador quote, "What I can confirm, having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions," end quote.
On January 26, the -- the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates reportedly told president Trump's White House counsel, who immediately told President Trump that Mr. Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail because of discrepancies between Vice President-elect Pence's public statement and Mr. Flynn's actual discussions.
On February 10, President Trump denied knowledge of this, telling reporters on Air Force One, quote, "I don't know about that," end quote, in response to questions about Mr. Flynn's conduct. The White House also publicly denied that Mr. Flynn and the Russian ambassador discussed sanctions. And of course on February 13, 2017, Mr. Flynn resigned as national security advisor.
Now, Director Comey, all of these accounts are open source press reportings. Given Russian's long-standing desire to cultivate relations with influential U.S. persons, isn't the American public right to be concerned about Mr. -- Mr. Flynn's conduct, his failure to disclose that contact with the Russian ambassador, his attempts to cover it up and what looks like the White House's attempts to sweep this under the rug.
Don't we, as the American people, deserve the right to know and shouldn't our FBI investigate such claims?
COMEY: I can't comment. I -- I understand people's curiosity about our work and intense interest in it, and as Mr. King said, oftentimes, speculation about it. But we can't do it well or fairly to the people we investigate if we talk about it. So I can't comment.
SEWELL: I'd like to turn to another topic about Mr. Flynn, his failure to disclose until pressured last week, by my colleagues on the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee, Government Reforms Committee, payments he received from Russia for his 2015 trip to the 10th anniversary Gala of RT, the Russian owned propaganda media outlet.
According to the January 2017 declassified IC assessment report, RT's criticism of the United States was quote, "The last facet of its broader and long-standing anti-U.S. messaging likely aimed at undermining viewer's trust in the U.S. Democratic procedures," end quote. This January assessment points out that this was a strategy that Russia employed, going back to before, the 2012 elections, according to the IC assessment.
So Admiral Rogers, am I right that the RT is essentially owned by the Russian government? And how long has the intelligence community been looking at RT as an arm of the Russian government?
ROGERS: So we're certainly aware and have been for some period of time of the direct connections between Russian government and RT individuals, we're aware of monetary flow and other things. We have been...
SEWELL: And how long have you known about that, a few months, a few years, I mean how long has the United States...
ROGERS: Some number of years, I apologize ma'am, I just don't know off the top of my head.
SEWELL: Aren't I right to assume then, that the former Director of DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency Mr. Flynn, would have been aware that RT's role as an anti-U.S. Russian propaganda outlet when he agreed to speak at their anniversary Gala in 2015. Isn't it reasonable to assume that he would know?
ROGERS: I'm not in a position to comment on the knowledge of something else from another person, ma'am.
SEWELL: Director Comey, would be unusual for a foreign government official to be -- to get paid by a foreign adversary to attend such an event? And would it be unusual and raise some questions at the FBI, if that person failed to disclose the payments received for that trip?
COMEY: I don't know in general and as to the specific, I'm -- I'm just not gonna comment.
SEWELL: Yes, sir. I understand that you can't comment. But I'd like to read an exchange between Mr. Flynn and a Yahoo news correspondent from July 2016 regarding his trip to Russia, during the RT event. The correspondent asked, "Were you paid for that event?" Then, there was back and forth for a bit. And then Mr. Flynn said, quote, "Yeah. I didn't take any money from Russia if that's what you're asking me," end quote.
So Director Comey, isn't it true that the House Oversight Committee last week, received information and released publicly that Mr. Flynn accepted nearly $35,000 in speaking fees and traveling fees from RT, this government -- Russian government owned media outlet.
COMEY: I believe I've seen news accounts to that effect.
SEWELL: Moreover, isn't it also true that according to the emoluments clause of the United States Constitution, a person holding any office of profit or trust cannot accept gifts or payments from a foreign -- from a foreign country.
And doesn't the DOD, the Department of Defense prohibit retired military officers from taking any consulting fees, gifts, traveling expenses, honorariums, a salary from a foreign government, including commercial enterprises owned by or controlled by a foreign government like RT?
COMEY: That's not something I can comment on. SEWELL: Can you -- can you speak to whether or not the emoluments clause would apply to someone like Mr. Flynn, a retired three-star general?
COMEY: I can't.
SEWELL: So isn't is -- I just find be really hard to believe that given the emoluments clause does apply to retired officers like Mr. Flynn. I can't believe that Mr. Flynn, a retired military officer would take money from the Russian government in violation of the United State Constitution. And I believe that such violations worthy of a criminal investigation by the FBI.
What level of proof do we need in order for us to have a criminal investigation by the FBI of Mr. Flynn?
COMEY: I can't comment on that.
SEWELL: Shouldn't the American people be concerned what -- I think that it's really hard for us to fathom that he wouldn't know that he should've disclosed that he received $30,000 as a part of -- of a speaking engagement to RT, the Russian U.S. anti-propaganda outlet.
COMEY: I can't comment on that Ms. Sewell.
SEWELL: My final line of questioning is in regard to Mr. Flynn working as an agent of a foreign power.
Now Director Comey, following on Mr. Himes's line of questioning, am I correct that the Foreign Agents Registration Act requires that individuals who lobby on behalf of a foreign government must register with the United States government?
COMEY: I believe that's correct. I know keep saying I'm not an expert. The reason I'm saying that is, I don't know exactly how they define things like lobbying in the statute. But as a general matter, if you're going to represent a foreign government here in the United States, touching our government, you should be registered.
SEWELL: And isn't it true that just last November 2016, Mr. Flynn was working as a foreign agent doing work that principally benefited the government of Turkey and yet reported until just last week?
COMEY: I can't comment on that.
SEWELL: Isn't it true that Mr. Flynn was reportedly paid over half $1 million for this work?
COMEY: Same answer.
SEWELL: And isn't it true that the Trump White House, on at least two occasions, was asked by Mr. Flynn's lawyers whether he should report that work, the work that he was doing on behalf of the Turkish government. And yet the administration didn't give him any advice to the contrary.
Do you know anything about that?
COMEY: I have to give you the same answer.
SEWELL: So Director Comey, I know you I cannot discuss whether any investigations are ongoing with U.S. persons, and I respect that. I think it's important though that the American people understand the scope and breath of what, in public open source press reportings of Mr. Flynn's actions that led to his resignation.
And while we can't talk about whether there are an investigation, I believe that we here at HPSCI, at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence must put those facts into the public domain. And they are one, that Mr. Flynn lied about his communication with the -- with the Russian ambassador.
Secondly, That Mr. Flynn lied about taking money from the Russian government and thirdly, that Mr. Flynn at a minimum did not disclose work as an agent of a foreign -- of a foreign power and that the White House did not help in this concern.
So gentlemen, it's clear to me that Mr. Flynn should be under criminal investigation. And I know you cannot comment but I believe it is my duty as a member of this committee to comment to the American people that this -- that his engagement of lying and failure to disclose really important information and contacts with a foreign ambassador do rise to the level of -- of disclosure and to me, criminal intent.
So I say this to say that the American people deserve to know the full extent of Mr. Flynn's involvement with the Russians and the extent to which it influenced the 2016 election. I believe our democracy requires it.
Thank you, I yield back to my ranking member.
NUNES: Time's expired. Recognize myself for 15 minutes.
Mr. Comey and Mr. Rogers, you both said that the Russians had -- they favored Donald Trump, the selection. And you made that change, from the beginning of December it was not that they were trying to help Donald Trump, but that changed by early January. Mr. Conaway talked about that. Do -- do Russians...
COMEY: I don't -- I don't agree with that. I want to make sure I didn't misspeak earlier. We didn't change our view from December to early January. We, the FBI -- and I don't know that anybody else did on the I.C. team.
ROGERS: Me, from my perspective, we didn't have a fully formed view until the end of December...
NUNES: At some point -- at some point, the assessment -- at some point, the assessment changed from -- from going from just trying to hurt Hillary Clinton to no, that they were actually trying to help Donald Trump get elected. That was early December as far as I know and then by January, you had all changed your mind on that.
COMEY: Well that's not my recollection.
ROGERS: That's not my recollection either, sir.
NUNES: OK. So is it -- do Russians historically prefer Republicans to win over Democrats?
COMEY: I don't know the answer to that. I don't know the answer to that.
NUNES: Did the Russians prefer Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012?
ROGERS: I don't know that we ever did -- drew a formal analytic conclusion.
NUNES: Did the Russians prefer John McCain in 2008 over Barack Obama?
ROGERS: I never saw a U.S. intelligence community analytic position on that issue.
NUNES: Don't you think it's ridiculous to say that -- for anyone to say that the Russians prefer Republicans over Democrats?
ROGERS: I didn't think that that's what you just heard us say, I apologize, sir.
COMEY: I hope you didn't hear us to say that. We don't know in those particular races and I'm not qualified enough...
NUNES: I'm just asking a general question. Wouldn't it be a little preposterous to say that historically, going back to Ronald Reagan and all that we know about maybe who the Russians would prefer, that somehow the Russians prefer Republicans over Democrats?
COMEY: There is -- I'm not going to discuss in an unclassed forum, in the classified segment of the reporting version that we did, there is some analysis that discusses this because remember this did come up in our assessment on the Russian piece. I'm not going to discuss this unclassified forum.
NUNES: Mr. -- Mr. King.
KING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I would just say on that because again, we're not going into the classified sections, that indicating that historically Russians have supported Republicans, and I know that language is there, to me puts somewhat of a cloud over the entire report. It seems to indicate the direction it was going in, but anyway, let me just say this for the record, and I know what your answer's going to be, but I have to get this statement on the record.
On March 15, former acting director of CIA, Mike Morell, who was the acting director under President Obama and put on the record I've had differences with Mike Morell in the past but he was asked about the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians and his answer was there's smoke but there is not fire at all. There's no little camp fire, there's no little candle, there's no spark.
COMEY: I can't comment, Mr. King.
KING: Admiral Rogers.
ROGERS: I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation.
KING: I understand that. That was my way of getting on the record, so I appreciate that. You were talking about the significance of leaks and how important it is we stop them. And to me -- and I've been here a while -- I've never seen such a sustained period of leaks.
Going back to December where, not the Intelligence Committee, but the Washington Post was told the conclusion of the report -- a similar one -- what it was going to be. We have situations in the New York Times where they talk of meetings, they talk about transcripts, they talk about conversations.
There was one in particular that spoke about Trump campaign individuals meeting with Russian intelligence agents and again, Director Comey, I don't know if you can comment on this, but the White House chief of staff, said against that day, on the next day that Mr. McCabe from your office you went to him at the White House and told him that that story was BS.
Is there any way you can comment on whether or not Mr. McCabe told that to Mr. Priebus?
COMEY: I can't, Mr. King, but I can agree with your general premise. Leaks have always been a problem. I read over the weekend something from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln complaining about them. But I do think in the last six weeks, couple of months, there's been at least -- apparently a lot of conversation about classified matters that's ending up in the media.
Now, a lot of it is just dead wrong, which is one of the challenges because we don't correct it, but it does strike me there's been a lot of people talking or at least reporters saying people are talking to them in ways that have struck me as unusually active.
KING: I fully understand the media's fascination with palace intrigue, with which faction of the White House is trying to outdo the other, that's all -- to me, that's all legitimate, that goes with the game. But if you're talking about leaking classified information, if you're talking about leaking investigations, I mean -- you've stated today that there is an FBI investigation going on. So if the New York Times can be believed, I would think there would have to be somebody from the FBI who is telling them about these purported meetings, which Mr. McCabe said was BS, with the Russian intelligence agencies. Somebody who's familiar with that investigation spoke to the New York Times. And so I'll use that as an example and also, one where there's a small universe.
I think it was on January 6, when yourself, Admiral Rogers, Director Brennan, and General Clapper went to Trump tower to meet with President Trump. The media reports are that at the end of that meeting, Director Comey, you presented president-elect Trump with a copy of the now infamous or famous dossier. And I don't know how many people were in the room, but within hours, that was leaked to the media and that gave the media the excuse or the rationale to publish almost the entire dossier.
Do you -- does that violate any law? I mean you were at a classified briefing with the president-elect of the United States and it had to be a very, very small universe of people who knew that you handed them that dossier and it was leaked out within hours. Are you making any effort to find out who leaked it and do you believe that constitute a criminal violation?
COMEY: I can't say, Mr. King except I can answer in general.
COMEY: Any unauthorized disclosure of classified conversations or documents is potentially a violation of law and a serious, serious problem. I've spent most of my career trying to figure out unauthorized disclosures and where they came from. It's very, very hard.
Often times, it doesn't come from the people who actually know the secrets. It comes from one hop out, people who heard about it or were told about it. And that's the reason so much information that reports to be accurate classified information is actually wrong in the media. Because the people who heard about it didn't hear about it right. But, it is an enormous problem whenever you find information that is actually classified in the media.
We don't talk about it because we don't wanna confirm it, but I do think it should be investigated aggressively and if possible, prosecuted so people take as a lesson, this is not OK. This behavior can be deterred and its deterred by locking some people up who have engaged in criminal activity.
KING: Well, could you say it was -- obviously, Admiral Rogers was in the room, you were in the room, General Clapper was in the room and Director Brennan was in the room. Were there any other people in the room that could've leaked that out?
I mean this isn't a report that was circulated among 20 people. This is an unmasking of names where you may have 20 people in the NSA and a hundred people in the FBI, its not putting together a report or the intelligence agency. This is four people in a room with the president-elect of the United States. And I don't know who else was in that room and that was leaked out, it seemed within minutes or hours, of you handing him that dossier and it was so confidential, if you read the media reports that you actually handed it to him separately.
So believe me, I'm not saying it was you. I'm just saying, it's a small universe of people that would've known about that. And if it is a disclosure of classified information, if you're going to start with investigating the leaks, to me that would be one place where you could really start to narrow it down.
COMEY: And again, Mr. King, I can't comment because I do not ever wanna confirm a classified conversation with a president or president-elect. I can tell you my general experience. It often turns out, there are more people who know about something you expected.
At first, both because there may be more people involved in the thing than you realized, not -- not this particular, but in general. And more people have been told about it or heard about it or staff have been briefed on it. And those echoes are in my experience, what most often ends up being shared with reporters.
KING: Well, could you tell us who else was in the room that day?
COMEY: I'm sorry?
KING: Could you tell us who else was in the room with you that day?
COMEY: No, because I'm not going to confirm that there was such a conversation because then, I might accidentally confirm something that was in the newspaper.
KING: But could you tell us who was in the room, whether or not there was a conversation?
COMEY: No, I'm not confirming there was a conversation. In a classified setting, I might be able to share more with you, but I'm not going to confirm any conversations with either President Obama or President Trump or when President Trump was the President-elect.
KING: Well, not the conversation or even the fact that you gave it to him, but can you -- can you tell us who was in the room for that briefing that you gave?
COMEY: That you're saying later ended up in the newspaper?
COMEY: So my talking about who was in the room would be a confirmation that was in the newspaper was classified information, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to help people who did something that -- that is unauthorized.
KING: Yeah, but we all know that the four of you went to Trump Tower for the briefing, I mean that's not classified, is it?
COMEY: How do we all know that, though?
KING: You know, you can -- you see the predicament we're in, here.
COMEY: I get it. I get it. But we are duty-bound to protect classified information, both in the first when we get it, and then to make sure we don't accidentally jeopardize classified information by what we say about something that appears in the media.
KING: Well, if they're listening, I would just advise that Director Clapper and Director Brennan, we'll be asking them the same questions last week -- next week and perhaps, they can give us some answers.
Mr. Chairman, I -- I yield back.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back...
KING: Thank you. Thank you for testifying.
NUNES: Mr. Lobiondo is recognized.
LOBIONDO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Director Comey, Admiral Rogers, thank you for your service and thank you for being here. Understanding that what both of you have been saying about the classified nature of the investigation, the classified nature of the topics we're talking about, can you give us any indication of when we, the committee, may in a classified setting know something from you. Would we have ongoing updates?
COMEY: Mr. LoBiondo, I don't know how long the work will take. I can't commit to updates, as you know. I have briefed the committee as a whole on some aspects of our work and I've briefed in great detail the chair and the ranking.
I don't know -- I can't -- I can't predict or commit to updates. But as your work goes on, we're in constant touch with you and we'll do the best we can, but I can't commit to that as I sit here.
LOBIONDO: So as the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee are conducting our bipartisan investigations and looking wherever it may lead with individuals or circumstances.
If you, through the FBI investigation, come across a circumstance with an individual or a situation would we be made aware of that under normal course of business?
COMEY: Not necessarily, but it's possible.
LOBIONDO: OK. So can you, either Director Comey or Admiral Rogers, tell us what we are doing or what we should be doing to protect against Russian interference in future elections or any meddling with our government or for that matter any state sponsor Iranians, North Koreans, Chinese, with any -- any meddling they may be doing?
ROGERS: So first, I think a public discussion and acknowledgment of the activity is a good positive first step because it shines us a flashlight on this, if you will. It illuminates a significant issue that I think we all have to -- have to deal with. There's a variety ongoing efforts both within the government, as well, in the private sector.
In terms of how we harden our defenses, I think we also need to have a discussion about just what for example, does critical infrastructure meeting in the 21st-century. I don't think we traditionally would have thought of an election infrastructure as critical. We traditionally viewed critical infrastructure as something that generated an industrial output, aviation, electricity, finance, I don't think we've traditionally thought about it and informational kind of dynamic.
I think that's a challenge for us coming ahead and then continued partnership between the elements within the government, as well is in the private sector, that's the key to the future to me.
LOBIONDO: So just for the record, I also had a whole list of specific questions about individuals and/or circumstances that don't want to be repetitive and have you say, I can't comment on them. But I would anticipate when we move to classified session that this committee will be able to explore some of those -- some of the situations in a little more depth.
I have a couple of other questions about the -- about the -- the Russian intervention. But I don't have enough time to get into it right now.
Mr. Chairman, if you could give me a couple minutes when we get to the next round.
LOBIONDO: OK. So very briefly the -- if you can describe the elements of the Russia's active measures in the campaign in the 2016 election. We've only got 35 seconds, but that's the first thing I want to get into about exactly what they were doing if you can tell us anything about that.
ROGERS: So we saw cyber used, we saw the use of external media, we saw the use of disinformation, we saw the use of leaking of information, much of which was not altered.
I mean, we saw several, if you will, common traits that we have both seen over time as well as I would argue that the difference this time was that the -- the cyber dimension and the fact that the release of so much information that they had extracted via cyber is a primary tool to try to drive an outcome.
LOBIONDO: So in this setting, can you talk to us at all about what tools they used?
ROGERS: I'm not going to go into the specifics of how they executed the hacks. I apologize, no sir.
LOBIONDO: We'll try to get into that in classified. I'll hold off for now, thank you.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back.
Mr. Schiff's recognized for 15 minutes.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just had a couple follow-up questions.
Director Comey, can you tell me what an SF86 is?
COMEY: It's the standard background clearance form that all of us who are hired by the federal government and want to have access to classified information fill out.
SCHIFF: Would someone who is an incoming national security advisor have to fill out an SF86?
COMEY: Yes, I think so.
SCHIFF: Would that SF86 require that the applicant disclose any payments received from a foreign power?
COMEY: I think so. I mean, the form is the form. I think so and foreign travel as well.
SCHIFF: I'd make a request through you to the Justice Department or whatever IC component would have custody of Mr. Flynn's SF86, I'd make a request that that be provided to the committee.
And I yield now to Mr. Carson.
CARSON: Thank you, Ranking Member.
I'd like to focus my line of questioning on Russia's views toward Ukraine. In March 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea beginning a conflict which has effectively yet to be resolved.
Admiral Rogers, can you please briefly describe, as you understand it, sir, how Russia took Crimea?
ROGERS: I would argue the insertion of military force. They occupied it and physically removed it from Ukrainian control.
CARSON: Sir, we've heard terms like little green men and hybrid warfare. Can you please explain how these relate to Russia and Ukraine?
ROGERS: So on the Ukraine side, what we saw was over time, rather than the kind of overt kind of activity we saw to such a degree on the Crimea side, what we saw was a much bigger effort on the influence and attempts to distance Russian actions from any potential blowback to the Russian state, if you will, and hence the use of the little green men surrogates in military -- unmarked military uniforms, the flow of information, the provision of resources to support forcible separation of the Ukraine.
CARSON: Admiral, has Russia returned Crimea back to Ukraine, sir?
ROGERS: No. CARSON: Do they have intentions to?
ROGERS: They publicly indicated that they will not.
CARSON: Admiral, why does Russia even care about Ukraine?
ROGERS: I'm sure in their view they view this is a primary national interest for them. It's on the immediate periphery of the Russian state.
CARSON: Am I right, sir, that they see it as a part of their broader objective to influence and impact Russia's -- Ukraine's desire for self-determination?
ROGERS: Yes. I think that's part of it.
CARSON: Sir, as Russia tried to claim stolen territory in Ukraine, the U.S. and the rest of the world saw the annexation for what it was; a crime. Shortly after Russia invaded, the United Nations essentially declared it a crime in a nonbinding resolution. In our own government, recognizing the seriousness of the event instituted new sanctions against Russia, is that right sir?
ROGERS: Yes sir.
CARSON: Now this was a time where much of the world was united but Russia invaded another country and illegally annexed it's territory as we all stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine. Now one person who didn't see it that way, however, was president Donald Trump.
On July 30, in an interview with ABC News, Mr. Trump said of Putin, and I quote, "He's not going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand, he's not going into Ukraine, all right?" end quote.
Now, Admiral, hadn't Putin already gone into Ukraine two years before and hadn't left?
ROGERS: We're talking about the Crimea and influence on the Ukraine generally, yes, sir.
CARSON: And he still hasn't left, correct, sir?
ROGERS: Now we're starting to get into some very technical questions about are the Russians physically in the Ukraine, is it surrogates that the Crimea is a very example of to me. They outright invaded with armed military force and have annexed it.
CARSON: But are they effectively still in Ukraine?
ROGERS: They're certainly supporting the ongoing effort in the Ukraine to split that country.
CARSON: We'll get back to Mr. Trump in a minute. First, tell me sir, what would it mean to Russia and to Putin to have sanctions lifted? ROGERS: Clearly, even easing of economic impact, greater flexibility, more resources.
CARSON: Now according to NATO analysis, the Russian economy shrunk by as much as 3.5 percent in 2015 and had no growth in 2016 in big part because of western sanctions, especially those against the oil and gas industry.
Now, we're talking about a loss of over $135 billion just in the first year of sanctions. That's a huge sum of money and sanctions aren't meant to push their economy over a cliff, but to put long-term pressure on Putin to change his behavior. Putin, himself, said in 2016 that sanctions are severely harming Russia. So we know they've had success in putting pressure on the Kremlin.
Admiral, what would it mean geopolitically? Would it help legitimate Russia's illegal land grab?
ROGERS: Sir, I'm not -- I'm not in a position to talk broadly about the geopolitical implications. I mean we have stated previously, from an intelligence perspective, we tried to -- we have tried to outline to policy makers the specifics of the Russian invasion on Crimea, the specifics of the continued Russian support to separatists in the Ukraine that Russians continue to -- to pressure and the keep the Ukraine weak.
CARSON: Would it help cleave the United States from her allies?
ROGERS: If we remove the sanctions?
CARSON: There's a lot of steak -- there's a lot at stake here for Russia. This is big money, big strategic implications. If they can legitimate their annexation of Crimea, what's next? Are we looking at a new iron curtain descending across Eastern Europe? You know, most in our country recognize what is at stake in how the United States, as the leader of the free world, is the only check on Russian expansion.
So back to Mr. Trump and his cohort. At the republican convention in July, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Trump himself changed the republican party platform to no longer arm Ukraine. So the same month that Trump denied Putin's role in Ukraine, his team weakened the party platform on Ukraine and as we have and will continue to hear, this was the same month that several individuals in the Trump orbit held secret meetings with Russian officials, some of which may have been on the topic of sanctions against Russia or their intervention in Ukraine.
Now this is no coincidence in my opinion. In fact, the dossier written by former MI6 agent, Christopher Steele alleges that Trump agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue, which is effectively a priority for Vladimir Putin. There's a lot in the dossier that is yet to be proven, but increasingly as we'll hear throughout the day, allegations are checking out. And this one seems to be as accurate as they come. In fact, there is also one pattern I wanna point out before yielding back, Manafort, fired, Page, fired, Flynn, fired. Why? They were hired because of their Russian connections, they were fired. However, because their connections became public, they were effectively culpable. But they were also the fall guys. So I think after we hear Mr. Quigley's line of questioning, we might guess who could be next.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, I yield back.
SCHIFF: I yield the balance to Representative Speier.
SPEIER: Thank you, Ranking Member. Thank you gentlemen for your service to our country.
You know, I think it's really important as we sit here that we explain this to the American people in a way that they can understand it. Why are we talking about all of this? So my first question to each of you is, is Russia our adversary? Mr. Comey?
SPEIER: Mr. Rogers?
SPEIER: Is -- do they intend to do us harm?
ROGERS: They intend to ensure, I believe, that they gain advantage at our expense.
SPEIER: Director Comey?
COMEY: Yes, I wanna be -- harm can have many meetings. They're an adversary and so they wanna resist us, oppose us, undermine us, in lots of different ways.
SPEIER: So one of the terms that we hear often is hybrid warfare. And I'd like to just stand give a short definition of what it is. It blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare. The aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution.
So would you say that Russia engaged in hybrid warfare in its effort to undermine our Democratic process and engage in our electoral process? Director Comey?
COMEY: I don't think I would use the term warfare. I think you'd -- you'd wanna ask experts in the definition of war. They engaged in a multifaceted campaign of active measures to undermine our democracy and hurt one of the candidates and -- and hope to help one of the other candidates.
ROGERS: I'd agree with the director.
SPEIER: All right, well, thank you both. I actually think that their engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare and I think that's why the American people should be concerned about it.
Now, in -- in terms of trying to understand this, I -- I think of a spider web, with a tarantula in the middle. And the tarantula, in my view, is Vladimir Putin, who is entrapping many people to do his bidding and to engage with him. And I would include those like Roger Stone and Carter Page and Michael Caputo and Wilbur Ross and Paul Manafort and Rex Tillerson.
I'd like to focus first on Rex Tillerson in the three minutes I have, here. He was the CEO of Exxon Mobil. In 2008, he said that the likelihood of U.S./Russia businesses was, in fact, a poor investment, that Russia was a poor investment climate, that was in 2008. In 2011 he closed the $500 billion deal with Rosneft Oil. The CEO of Rosneft is Igor Sechin, who is a confident of President Putin, second most powerful man in Russia and probably a former KGB agent.
The deal gives Exxon access to the Black Sea and the Kara Seas and Siberia for oil development. Rosneft gets minority interest in Exxon in Texas and the Gulf. Rex Tillerson calls Sechin a good friend. In 2012, Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Sechin go on a road show here in the United States to talk about this great deal that they had just consummated.
Also in 2012 there's a video of President Putin and Mr. Tillerson toasting champagne at the deal. And in 2013, Mr. Tillerson receives the Russian Order of Friendship and he sits right next to President Putin at the event.
So my question to you Director Comey is, is it of value to President Putin knowing what you know of him and that his interest in doing harm to us, is it of benefit to Mr. Putin to have Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State?
COMEY: I can't answer that question.
SPEIER: Admiral Rogers?
ROGERS: Ma'am I'm not -- I'm not in the position answer that question.
SPEIER: All right. So in 2014 at Igor Sechin is sanctioned and he laments that he no longer will be able to come to the United States to motorcycle ride with Mr. Tillerson. Could you give me an understanding of what are some of the reasons that we impose sanctions, Direct Comey?
COMEY: On Sechin?
SPEIER: Well, just in general.
COMEY: Again, you'd have to ask an expert, but from my general knowledge it's to punish activities that are criminal in nature, that involve war crimes, that involve violations of U.N. resolutions or United States law in some other way, it's to communicate and enforce foreign policy interests and values of United States of America. That's my general sense, but an expert might describe it much better.
SPEIER: Admiral Rogers?
ROGERS: I would echo the Director's comments. It's also a tool that we use to attempt to drive and shake the choices and actions of others.
SPEIER: So in the case of Igor's session, who was sanctioned by the United States, in part to draw attention to the fact that Russia had invaded Crimea. It's an effort to try and send a very strong message to Russia, is that not true?
COMEY: I think that's right.
ROGERS: Yes ma'am.
SPEIER: With that, Mr. Chairman, I'll yield back for now.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back.
I'm going to yield myself 15 minutes and now yield to the general lady from Florida Ms. Ros-Lehtinen.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much Mr. Chairman.
It's never acceptable, we can all agree, for any foreign power to interfere with our electoral process and this committee has long been focused on Russia's reprehensible conduct. And we will remain focused on the threat emanating from Moscow. And I agree with you Director Comey, when you say this investigation that is ongoing, we will follow the facts wherever they lead on a bipartisan level and there will be no sacred cows.
There are many important issues at stake, as you gentlemen have heard. There is bipartisan agreement on the danger of illegal leaks and our ability to reauthorize important programs upon which our intelligence community relies. But I want to assure the American people that there's also bipartisan agreement on getting to the bottom of Russian meddling in our election which must remain the focus of this investigation and yours.
So Admiral Rogers, I agree in what you said that a public acknowledgement of this foreign meddling to be a problem is important as we move forward. And following on Congressman LoBiondo's questions and based on this theme, I'd like to ask you gentlemen if you could describe what, if anything, Russia did in this election that to your knowledge they did or they didn't do in previous elections, how -- how it was -- were their actions different in this election than -- than in previous ones.
ROGERS: I'd say the biggest difference from my perspective was both the use of cyber, the hacking as a vehicle to physically gain access to information to extract that information and then to make it widely, publicly available without any alteration or change. COMEY: The only thing I'd add is they were unusually loud in their intervention. It's almost as if they didn't care that we knew what they were doing or that they wanted us to see what they were doing. It was very noisy, their intrusions in different institutions.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And what specifically based on this loudness did the FBI or the NSA do to prevent or counter this Russian active measure that we read about in the intelligence community assessment? As loud as they were, what did we do to counter that?
COMEY: Well, among other things, we alerted people who had been victims of intrusions to permit them to tighten their systems to see if they couldn't kick the Russian actors out. We also, as a government, supplied information to all the states so they could equip themselves to make sure there was no successful effort to affect the vote and there was none, as we said earlier.
And then the government as a whole in October called it out. And I believe it was Director Clapper and then-secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement saying this is what the Russians are doing, sort of an inoculation.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And the loudness to which you refer, perhaps they were doing these kinds of actions previously in other elections but they were not doing it as loudly. What -- why do you think that they did not mind being loud and being found out?
COMEY: I don't know the answer for sure. I think part -- their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation and so it might be that they wanted us to help them by telling people what they were doing.
Their loudness, in a way, would be counting on us to amplify it by telling the American people what we saw and freaking people out about how the Russians might be undermining our elections successfully. And so that might have been part of their plan, I don't know for sure.
ROGERS: I've -- I agree with Director Comey. I mean, a big difference to me in the past was while there was cyber activity, we never saw in previous presidential elections information being published on such a massive scale that had been illegally removed both from private individuals as well as organizations associated with the democratic process both inside the government and outside the government.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And this massive amount and this loudness, now that it's become public knowledge, now that we have perhaps satisfied their -- their -- their thirst that it has become such a huge deal, do you expect their interference to be amplified in future U.S. elections?
Do you see any evidence of that in European elections or do you think that this public acknowledgment would -- would tamper down the volatility?
COMEY: I'll let my -- maybe I'll just say as initial matter they'll be back. And they'll be in 2020, they may be back in 2018 and one of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful because they introduced chaos and division and discord and sewed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our democratic process.
It's possible they're misreading that as it worked and so we'll come back and hit them again in 2020. I don't know but we have to assume they're coming back.
ROGERS: I fully expect them to continue this -- this level of activity because I -- our sense is that they have come to the conclusion that it generated a positive outcome for them in the sense that calling into question the democratic process for example is one element of the strategy.
We're working closely, we -- our FBI teammates, others working closely with our European teammates to provide the insights that we have seen to try to assist them as they, themselves, France and Germany for example, about to undergo significant national leadership elections over the course of the next two months.
ROS-LEHTINEN: And in terms of the European elections, what -- what have you seen or any information that you can share with us about the Russian interference in that process?
ROGERS: So you see some of the same things that we saw in the U.S. in terms of disinformation, fake news, attempts to release of information to embarrass individuals, you're seeing that play out to some extent in European elections right now.
ROS-LEHTINEN: I look forward to continuing with you.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
NUNES: Gentlelady yields back.
Mr. Turner is recognized.
TURNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Comey, Admiral Rogers, thank you for being here today and for your -- what appears to be attempts at being forthcoming with the committee. I also want to thank the Chairman and the Ranking Member Schiff. This is a bipartisan effort.
I think as you've looked to what this committee is undertaking, everyone wants answers and everyone want answers to all of the questions that are being asked because this does go to such an important issue concerning our elections.
Admiral Rogers, I'm going to begin with a question to you concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now Admiral, as you know that the foreign service -- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides the circumstances or the authority under which the intelligence community may collect or intercept the communication of a foreign person located outside of the United States, or as Mr. Comey's indicated a person who is covered under a FISA court order.
Now, with Mr. Rooney and Mr. Gowdy you discussed the minimization procedures under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and those minimization procedures are supposed to protect the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. Specifically, it's geared toward the communications of those who maybe inadvertently or incidentally collected as a result of the intelligence community's lawful collection of communications of others.
So Mr. Rogers, is the intelligence community required to cease collection or the interception of communications if the result of the collection or interception includes the communications of an incoming U.S. administration official, the president-elect or the president- elect's transition team.
ROGERS: It depends under what authority work, as I said early on, there's a series of questions we go through, was there criminal associated activity, does the conversation deal about threats to U.S. persons, breaking of the law. So there's no simple yes or no, there's a series of processes we have in place.
TURNER: Mr. Rogers, is there any provision of minimization that requires you to cease collection? Because that is my question, are you under any circumstances required to cease collection if the collection results in the either inadvertent or incidental collection of an incoming U.S. administration official, the president-elect or the president-elect's transition team?
ROGERS: Purely on the basis of exposure, I wanna make sure I understand the question, is -- is...
TURNER: Are you required to cease, if you are -- are undertaking lawful collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of a person or individual, either because they're a foreign person located outside the United States or the person that you're collecting against, is the subject of a FISA Court order.
If incidental to that collection or inadvertently, the collection results in the collection of communications of an incoming U.S. administration official, the president-elect or the president-elect's transition team, are you required under the minimization procedures, to cease collection?
ROGERS: Not automatically.
TURNER: Thank you. So the answer's no, correct?
Well, the reason why this is important is because intuitively, we would all know that incoming administration would have conversations with those that the intelligence community may be collecting against, either by making phone calls to them or receiving phone calls to them.
And so it's important for us to understand that the minimization procedures that are intended to collect the privacy rights of Americans, do not inherently include the -- a prohibition of the intelligence community incidentally or inadvertently, collecting the communications of an incoming administration.
ROGERS: Yes, sir.
Mr. Comey, are you aware whether or not the Director of National Intelligence Director Clapper, ever briefed the President of the United States, then President Obama, concerning the possible inadvertent or incidental collection or interception by the U.S. intelligence community of any communication of members of the incoming Trump administration?
COMEY: That's not something I can comment on.
TURNER: And then why not, Mr. Comey.
COMEY: A couple of reasons, it might involve classified information, it might involve communications with the president of the United States. On both of those grounds, I can't talk about it here.
TURNER: Mr. Comey, have you previously discussed your conversations with President Obama with this committee?
COMEY: I don't remember. I may have with the chair and ranking, I don't remember with the full committee.
TURNER: Well, we'll have to refresh your memory on those conversations, then.
Mr. Comey, did and am used to combing. I did President Obama ever acknowledge to you of having been briefed, concerning possibly inadvertent or incidental collection or interception by the intelligence community of any communications of members of the incoming Trump administration?
COMEY: I have to give you the same answer, Mr. Turner.
TURNER: Well, Mr. Comey, the first question related to whether or not Mr. Clapper had briefed the president of the United States and we'll certainly be following up with him. He is going to be appearing before us next week and we'll certainly be directing the question to him also.
So Mr. Comey, are you aware of any evidence that General Flynn prior to the inauguration, ever communicated to the Russian government or a Russian government official that the Trump administration in the future would release, resend, or reverse U.S. sanctions against Russia or ever made any offer of a quid pro quo for releasing resending or reversing U.S. sanctions against Russia. Are you aware of any evidence?
COMEY: That's not something I can comment on, Mr. Turner.
TUNER: And why's that?
COMEY: I'm trying very hard not to talk about anything that relates to a U.S. person, or that might rule in or rule out things, might be investigating. I'm trying to be studiously vague here to protect the integrity of the investigation.
So please don't -- as I said in the beginning please don't interpret my no comment as meaning this or meaning that. I just can't comment.
TURNER: Well, Mr. Comey, there are statutes, guidelines and procedures concerning the what does it take for the FBI to open up a counterintelligence investigation into a U.S. citizen.
It is not just subject to discretion. You can't just say well let's go look at somebody, you have to have a basis. You've now informed us that you've opened a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, members the Trump campaign, concerning Russia in July of 2006 (sic). Now we're trying to get a picture of what does it take to tip over for investigation?
Now previously people have said that there been individuals who attended a meeting with Russian officials, individuals who -- a member who was paid to attend a conference, a picture that was taken, traveled to a foreign place. There many people both in -- in all of our administrations and sometimes, you know, certainly members who have left Congress who would all qualify for that. What -- what is the tipping point? I mean it can't just be that. Don't you need some action or some information besides just attending a meeting, having been paid to attend a conference, that a picture was taken, or that you traveled to a country before your open to investigation for counterintelligence by the FBI?
COMEY: The standard is, I think there's a couple different at play. A credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe that an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.
TURNER: Well the reason why we're with this, Mr. Comey, is that we obviously have the statements of Mr. Clapper that there is no evidence of collusion with Russia and he just left the intelligence community. And as you are aware, we now sit because this is you said, Admiral Rogers, you know, the Russians wanted to put a cloud over our system.
And Mr. Comey, by your announcement today, I mean, there is now a cloud that undermines our system. There is a cloud that where we're sitting with Mr. Clapper who was obviously in a very important position to know, who stated to us that there is no evidence of conclusion, and you will not give us evidence or -- or -- or give us any -- any substantive evaluation of it.
We now sit with this cloud and it's important that -- Mr. Chairman I have a few additional questions if I might when we regain time.
NUNES: We'll get back to Mr. Turner.
Mr. Schiff's recognized for 15 minutes.
SCHIFF: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I recognize representative Jackie Speier.
SPEIER: Thank you Mr. Schiff.
Again, let's go back to this tarantula web. So Mr. Tillerson, in 2014, started to lobby the United States government asking them to shifter or lift the sanctions. Now in his -- his confirmation hearing he says he's -- as he said, I have never lobbied against sanctions, personally, to my knowledge, Exxon Mobil never directly lobbied against sanctions.
And yet there is lobbying reporting that shows that Exxon Mobil actually paid over $300,000 to lobbyists in 2014. And that Mr. Tillerson visited the White House five times in 2014 and treasury with Secretary Lew, seven times.
Is -- is there something disconcerting about a U.S. CEO attempting to undermine The sanctions imposed by our government against another country for acts that we find to be disadvantageous to the world order. Director Comey?
COMEY: That's not a question I can answer. For a variety of reasons, I'm not qualified to answer and I shouldn't be answering questions like that.
SPEIER: All right. OK. How about this then? Is it disconcerting to you as the director of the FBI that a U.S. CEO would say publicly that he is very close friends with President Putin and has had a 17-year relationship with him?
COMEY: That's not a question I can answer.
SPEIER: Would it raise any red flags?
COMEY: That's not a question I can answer.
SPEIER: Admiral Rogers?
ROGERS: Ma'am, lots of American corporations do business in Russia. I have no knowledge of the specifics you're talking about, I am in no way qualified or knowledgeable enough to comment on this.
SPEIER: All right, let's move on to someone else in that web. His name is Michael Caputo. He's a PR professional, conservative radio talk show host. In 1994, he moved to Russia and there he was working for the agency for international development. He was fired from that job because he refused to follow a State Department position.
He then opened a PR firm in Moscow and married a Russian woman. He subsequently divorced her and in 1999 his business failed. Roger Stone, a mentor to him, urged him to move to Florida and open his PR firm in Miami which is exactly what Mr. Caputo did. And then in 2000 he worked with Gazprom-Media to improve Putin's image in the United States.
Now, do we know who Gazprom-Media is? Do you know anything about Gazprom, Director?
COMEY: I don't.
SPEIER: Well, it's a -- it's an oil company. In 2007, he began consulting the Ukrainian parliamentary campaign. There he met his second wife.
So I guess my question is, what possible reason is there for the Trump campaign to hire Putin's image consultant? Any thoughts on that Director Comey?
COMEY: No thoughts.
SPEIER: Admiral Rogers?
ROGERS: Likewise, ma'am.
SPEIER: All right. Do either of you know what Michael Caputo is doing for the Trump effort today?
ROGERS: I have no idea.
COMEY: And I'm not going to talk about U.S. persons.
SPEIER: All right, let's move on now to Carter Page.
Carter Page was the founder of Global Energy, it's an investment fund. He has only one partner and that partner is Sergei Yatsenko who's the former executive of a Russian state-owned Gazprom oil company. Before that, from 2004 to 2007, he worked for Merrill Lynch in Moscow.
In March of 2016, Then-Candidate Trump referred to Carter Page as his foreign policy advisor to the Washington Post. The next day, Page asserts that he's an advisor on Russia and energy. But then subsequently, Candidate Trump says he doesn't know him.
There’s a smell of treason in the air
presidential historian Douglas Brinkley