continuing with the transcript
SPEIER: On September 26, he takes a leave of absence from the campaign and then Page publicly supports a relationship with Russia, criticizes U.S. sanctions and NATO's approach to Russia, saying -- and then subsequently says he's divesting his stake in Gazprom in August. In 2014, he writes an article criticizing the U.S. sanctions, praising Sechin in an article and global policy and then rebuked the west for focusing on so-called annexation of Crimea.
In July of 2016, he gives a graduation speech at the new economic school, denies meeting with the prime minister, Christopher Steele, in his dossier, says he met with, again, Igor Sechin, offering a 19 percent interest in Rosneft. It becomes the biggest transfer of public property to private ownership.
Now, Carter Page is a national security adviser to Donald Trump. Do you believe that -- why do we -- I guess, again, here's another company that has had sanctions imposed upon it. Could you again clarify why we impose sanctions on companies?
COMEY: Admiral Rogers did it better than I, so I'm going to (inaudible) him.
ROGERS: I apologize. I don't remember the specifics of my answer, but I'll stand by my answer...
COMEY: Which was excellent.
SPEIER: All right.
I think at that point, I will yield back, Mr. Chair.
SCHIFF: I now yield to Mr. Quigley.
QUIGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Ranking Member.
Gentlemen, thank you for your service. Thank you for being here. We've talked a little bit about the Russian playboook, right? Extortion, bribery, false news, disinformation, they all sound very familiar, correct? Well, as we talk, without thinking about anybody in the United States, just generally the Russian playbook and how it's worked in particularly Eastern Europe and Central Europe, a lot of it involves trying to influence individuals in that country, correct?
ROGERS: Yes. QUIGLEY: So what we've talked about a little bit today seems so -- be sort of a black and white notion of whether there was collusion, but does a Russian active measure attempting to succeed at collusion -- does the person involved have to actually know? I mean, does it have to involve knowing collusion for there to be damage?
COMEY: I can answer generally. In the world of intelligence, oftentimes there are people who are called co-optees, who are acting -- don't realize they're dealing with agents of a foreign power and so are doing things for someone they think is a friend or a business associate, not realizing it's for that -- the foreign government. So it can happen, it's actually quite a frequent technique.
QUIGLEY: Is it beyond that sometimes to include things where the -- the actor doesn't necessarily know what they're doing is helping that other government?
QUIGLEY: And what are instances, just examples of what that might include in a generic sense, in Europe and so forth?
COMEY: Oftentimes, a researcher here in the United States may think they're dealing with a peer researcher in a foreign government and not knowing that that researcher is either knowingly or unwittingly passing information to a foreign adversary of the United States.
QUIGLEY: And can you explain and elaborate how this sort of -- problems with defining what collusion is -- the differences that might be involved with explicit or implicit collusion?
COMEY: Collusion is not a term, a legal term of art and it's one I haven't used here today, as we're investigating to see whether there was any coordination between people associated with the campaign...
QUIGLEY: Explicit or implicit coordination?
COMEY: I guess implicit, I -- I would think of it as knowing or unknowing. You can do things to help a foreign nation state, as I said, without realizing that you're dealing with. You think you're helping a buddy, who's a researcher at a university in China and what you're actually doing is passing information that ends up with the Chinese government. That's unwitting, I don't know whether it's same as your implicit.
Explicit would be, you know, I'm sending this stuff to this researcher in China and I'm doing it because I wanna help the Chinese government and I know he's hooked up with the Chinese government.
QUIGLEY: Admiral Rogers, would you give other examples of what you witnessed in your career?
ROGERS: Sometimes, U.S. individuals would be approached by other individuals connected with -- with foreign connections who will misrepresent what not just the researcher, they'll assume an identity if you will, hey I want you to think that I'm actually working for a business, exploring commercial interests, those kinds of things. Create a relationship and then it turns out, there really is no commercial interest, here they're acting as a direct extension of a foreign government...
COMEY: And romance can be a feature. Somebody dating someone to create a close relationship and the U.S. government person thinks that they're in love with this person and -- and vice versa and the other person's actually an agent of a foreign power, that's sort of a classic example.
QUIGLEY: You describe this as naive acquiescence?
COMEY: I don't -- I'm not sure I know what that means, exactly (ph).
ROGERS: I don't know what that really means (ph).
QUIGLEY: You're -- you're going along with it and without really acknowledging, understanding in your mind or being naive about the issue.
COMEY: Sure, that can happen.
ROGERS: Yeah, you see that at times.
Going on to things that you -- you probably can't comment upon which is of equal concern. We're all, at this point, very familiar with Mr. Sessions's testimony before the United States Senate in which he specifically said he had -- he wasn't one who had this contact with the Russians. And then there was the amended, I guess, testimony in which he acknowledged I believe two such testimonies. The first was in July during the convention and then later in September afterwards.
All the while, that the issues that we are talking about today, the hacking, the dumping of materials were taking placing and certainly, someone in the position of Mr. Senator Sessions would've been aware of this. Perhaps, would've remembered these conversations or might've mentioned or asked the Russian ambassador to knock it off. But apparently, none of those things happened or at least he didn't remember that they happened. Unfortunately, what we're reading now is that there was a third meeting as early as April of last year in Washington, D.C., a meeting which Candidate Trump was present and the Russian ambassador was present.
At some point in time, this goes well beyond an innocent, under the best of circumstances, oh I forgot sort of thing, or that doesn't count. When you correct your testimony in front of the United States Senate, you're still under oath and you're swearing to the American people that what you're saying is true. Well, the third time is well beyond that and is quite simply perjury. So as we look at this as we go forward, gentlemen, I ask that you take that into consideration. This is far more than what we have talked about just in the general sense, did the Russians hack or not and the scope of this too, a concerted effort and plan to lie to the American public about what took place and what the motivations were beyond these -- this process. Again, I thank you for your service.
And I yield back to the ranking member.
SCHIFF: I yield to Mr. Swalwell of California.
SWALWELL: Thank you, Director Comey and Admiral Rogers.
Director Comey, you've served time in a courtroom as a prosecutor and I'm wondering if you remember the instruction that is read to juries every day that if you decide that a witness deliberately lied about something significant in this case, you should consider not believing anything that witness says.
COMEY: Yes, that's familiar to me.
SWALWELL: And your testimony at the beginning of this hearing was that President Trump's claims that former President Obama had wiretapped him is false.
COMEY: I said we have no information that supports them.
SWALWELL: Thank you.
With respect to Donald Trump, do you remember the other instruction relating to truthfulness of a witness or a defendant? If the defendant makes a false or misleading statement relating to the charged crime knowing the statement was false or intending to mislead that conduct may also show he or she were aware of their guilt.
COMEY: Yes, familiar to me from my distant past.
SWALWELL: I want talk about the Kremlin playbook and there are a number of ways that a foreign adversary can seek to influence a person, do you agree with that?
COMEY: Yes, that can be one.
SWALWELL: Romance you said is another.
SWALWELL: Setting up a compromise? COMEY: Sure, to execute on a compromise, yes.
SWALWELL: How about inadvertently capturing a compromise, meaning they have vast surveillance and you stumble into that surveillance and are caught in compromise?
COMEY: And then they take that information, try and use it to coerce you? Yes, that's part of the playbook.
SWALWELL: I'll yield back, Chair, and continue once I'm back with us. Thank you, Director.
NUNES: Gentleman's time's expired.
We'll go back to Mr. Turner.
TURNER: Thank you.
I want to go back to the issue of -- Admiral Rogers indicated that the goal of the Russians is to put a cloud on our system to undermine our system. And -- and I would think, certainly today, Mr. Comey, with your announcement of an investigation that the Russians would be very happy with that as an outcome because the cloud of their actions and activities continues and will continue to undermine and until your finished with whatever your investigation is currently in the scope of.
I want to go back to the issue of how does one open an investigation because again, I'm -- I'm a little confused by -- by some of the things that we hear as to the basis of an investigation. Now, Mr. Comey, if -- if an individual attends a meeting with a foreign leader is -- is that enough to open a counter intelligence investigation?
COMEY: Without more that somebody met with somebody, no.
TUNER: No. OK. Without more than if they had their picture taken with a foreign leader, is that enough?
COMEY: It would depend upon where they were, who took the picture.
TURNER: Well, assume that they're in would (ph) that -- the foreign country, and in that foreign leaders government offices or facilities, if they're having a picture taken with them, is that enough to open a counterintelligence investigation?
COMEY: It would depend.
TURNER: On -- on what? Because I'm saying if there's just a picture. Because I can tell you certainly there's lots of people who have had lots of pictures.
TURNER: Is it enough that a person who has just had their picture taken with a foreign leader at the foreign leaders government official offices or place of residence?
COMEY: The reason I said it depends is it would depend. Did the person sneak over to the foreign country and meet them clandestinely, did -- was the picture -- reveal something else about the relationship? It just hard to...
TUNER: Well, let's say it's not clandestine. Let's say it's open, that the person has -- as -- has attended an event and has gone over to meet with the foreign person, foreign government official and is at their foreign government official facility or their official residence and has a picture taken and has no intention of covertly being present with the foreign person, is that picture enough to open a counterintelligence investigation?
COMEY: Tricky to answer hypotheticals, but I think my reaction to that is that doesn't strike me as enough. And I know your next question's going to be deeper into hypos.
TURNER: No, no, I'm not getting deep into hypos. These are pretty straightforward. So what if you're paid, you know, to attend a conference in a foreign -- in a foreign country and you're paid to attend that conference not directly by the foreign government, but nonetheless payment does occur for you to attend a conference? We know President Bill Clinton attended many such conferences and spoke and received payment.
Is receiving payment by attending to speak at a conference -- again, it's not covert, it's open. They're attending to speak at a conference, they receive payment for the purposes of speaking, is that enough to open a counterintelligence investigation?
COMEY: I can't say as I sit here. It would depend upon a lot of different things.
TURNER: If you had no other information or evidence other than the fact that they attended, is that enough for you, for the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation of a private U.S. citizen?
COMEY: I can't answer the hypothetical because it would depend upon a number of other things.
TURNER: I limited it to where there would be no other things, Mr. Comey. I said only, if the only information that you had was that they had intended an event in which they were paid which was a conference and it was not covert, is that only sufficient information to open an investigation against a private U.S. citizen?
COMEY: Who paid them? Did they disclose it? What did they discuss when they were there? Who else was sitting with them? There's lots and lots of other circumstances that make that -- even that simple-seeming hypo difficult to answer.
TURNER: Well, let's say that they've traveled to a foreign country and they openly traveled, wasn't covert. Is traveling there enough?
COMEY: Just traveling around the world, no.
TURNER: OK, well I'm very concerned, Mr. Comey, about the issue of how an investigation is opened and -- and how we end up at this situation once again where Mr. Clapper, had (ph) the director of national intelligence, just said that when he left there was no evidence of collusion and yet, as Admiral Rogers said, we're sitting now where the Russians' goal is being achieved of causing a cloud or undermining our electoral process. So I certainly hope that you take an expeditious look at what you have undertaken because it affects the heart of our democracy.
Mr. Comey, I have a question against -- again concerning classified information. Now, I know that if I attend a classified briefing and I receive classified information and I go and tell someone that classified information, if I leak it, I release it, then I've committed a crime. But what if someone goes to a classified briefing, walks out of that briefing, and openly lies about the content of that briefing? Because it's unclear to me what happens then.
And it's important because, as you know, this committee and certainly both of you gentlemen have handled a lot of classified information and recently, more recently, the purported classified information is put out in the press, The Washington Post, The New York Times reports information. And you know and I know and we all know, having handled classified information, that some of that information is not true. Are the sources of that classified information, if they come out and lie about the content of classified information, have they committed a crime?
COMEY: That's a really interesting question. I don't think so. If all they've done is lie to a reporter, that's not against the law. If they've done it, I don't wanna break anybody's hearts with that but that's not against the law. But it is not and the reason I'm hesitating is, I can imagine a circumstance where it's part of some broader conspiracy or something, but just that false statement to a reporter is not a crime.
TURNER: And I just wanna underscore that for a -- just for a second, because I agree with you. I think it's no crime. And so every reporter out there that has someone standing in front of them and saying oh, I'm taking this great risk of sharing with you U.S. secrets, besides them purporting to be a traitor, are committing no crime if they lie to them. So all of these news articles that contain this information that we know is not -- not the case, are being done so at damage to the United States but without the risk of a crime.
And my next aspect of your question to Mr. Comey, is this. What is the obligation of the intelligence community to correct such falsehoods? Some of this information that we read in the Washington Post and the New York Times, is extremely false and extremely incendiary and extremely condemning of individuals and certainly, our whole system. What is your obligation, Mr. Comey, to be that source to say I can't release classified information, but I can tell you, it's not that? COMEY: Yeah, it's a great question, Mr. Turner, because there's a whole lot out there that is false. And I suppose some of it could be people lying to reporters. I think that probably happens. But more often than not, it's people who -- who act like they know when they really don't know. Because they're not the people who actually know the secrets, they're one or two hops out and they're passing along (ph) things they think they know.
There is -- we had not only have no obligation to correct that, we can't, because if we start calling reporters and saying hey, this thing you said about this new aircraft we've developed, that's inaccurate actually, it's got two engines. We just can't do that because we'll give information to our adversaries that way and it's very, very frustrating but we can't start down that road. Now, when it's unclassified information, if a reporter misreports the contents of a bill that's being debated in Congress or a policy, we can call him and say hey, you ought to read it more carefully. You missed this or missed that. We cannot do that with classified information.
It's very, very frustrating because I have read a whole lot of stuff, especially in the last two months, this is just wrong. But I can't say which is wrong and I can't say it to those reporters.
TURNER: Mr. Comey, if you could help us on this issue, I would greatly appreciate it because what happens, is that you come into a classified briefing with us and you tell us, perhaps what something that is absolutely false, it really shouldn't be classified because you're telling us it's not true. But yet, we can't go tell it's not true because you told us in a classified setting. If there's a way that we can at least have some exchange as to what's not true so the American people don't listen to false stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times that we all know are not true, that would be helpful.
COMEY: Yeah, I don't...
TURNER: If you could think about how you could help us with that.
COMEY: I'd love to invent that machine, but we can't because where do you stop that on that slope?
TURNER: Well, false is false, Mr. Comey.
COMEY: Because then, when I don't call The New York Times to say you got that one wrong, bingo, they got that one right. And so I -- it's just an enormously complicated endeavor for us. We have to stay clear of it entirely.
TURNER: Thank you, Mr. Comey, one last question. So we all read in the press that Vice President Pence publicly denied that General Flynn discussed sanctions with Russia. And I'm assuming that you saw those news reports. Did the FBI take any action in response to the vice president statements?
COMEY: I can't comment on that, Mr. Turner.
TURNER: Mr. Comey, The New York Times reported on February 14th, 2017, that General Flynn was interviewed by FBI personnel. Is that correct?
COMEY: I can't comment on that, Mr. Turner.
TURNER: Mr. Comey, I do not have any additional questions, but I thank you both for your participation. And again, I thank for the -- the chairman and ranking member for the bipartisan aspect of this investigation.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back.
Dr. Wenstrup is recognized.
WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you gentlemen for being here, I appreciate your endurance in this effort today. One question, how long has Russia or the Soviet Union been interfering or attempting to interfere with our election process?
ROGERS: In the report we've feebly (ph) talked about, we have seen this kind of behavior to some degree attempting to influence outcomes for decades.
WENSTRUP: Going back to -- going back the Soviet Union...
ROGERS: Right. Not to the same level necessary, but the basic trend has been there.
WENSTRUP: So I'm curious also about what triggers a counterintelligence investigation of a government official. And in some ways, I'm asking for myself. For example, last week I spoke at an event on form policy with Atlantic Council. Unbeknownst to me, the Iraqi ambassador of the United States was there. He comes up to me afterwards, introduces himself and says he'd like to meet with me at some time. So this isn't a theoretical, this is real and this is what I'm asking is this.
Will be in trouble or under investigation if I meet with him?
COMEY: This is the slope I tried to avoid going down with Mr. Turner. Dr. Wenstrup, I -- I don't think I should be answering hypotheticals. The question is...
WENSTRUP: It's not hypothetical because I'm asking you in advance because I want to know if I can meet with him and be under investigation or not and I don't think that's an unrealistic question. This is real. This is right now.
COMEY: I get that. The FBI does not give advisory opinions, and so if you're asking about your particular case, I just can't do that.
WENSTRUP: So you'll tell me afterwards?
COMEY: No, I'll -- I'll never tell you.
WENSTRUP: Well, you might. Somebody might, somebody might tell the press, right? And that's where I'm going next because I want to know what -- what can I discuss? What am I allowed to discuss? And what -- what triggers the investigation is really what we're trying to get to in general. You know, maybe not with the Iraqi ambassador, but what about with the Russian ambassador? What are my obligations? What am I -- do I need to advise someone that I'm meeting with them? Do I have to discuss the agenda before I meet with them?
You know, just so we're clear. I mean, this is really what it's coming down to, is a lot about what we're talking about. You know, so I don't think it's unnecessary or ridiculous for me to ask that. And so in intelligence reporting, if the identity of a U.S. official is disseminated to those on an as needed basis -- or those that need to know basis. Does that generally lead to a counterintelligence investigation of that individual?
So in -- in general, if a U.S. official is -- is -- is in this report and it's disseminated, does that lead to an investigation of the individual?
COMEY: No, not in general, not as a rule. No.
WENSTRUP: OK. That answers...
COMEY: It would depend on lots of the circumstances.
WENSTRUP: Next, I want to go to the article from February 14 in The New York Times which I believe we're all familiar. And you may not be able to answer any of these, but the article sites four current and former American officials. Do you know -- know the identity of those four officials?
COMEY: Not going to comment on an article.
WENSTRUP: OK. Well, it's not necessarily on the article, but OK. Do you know for a fact that the four current and former American officials provided information for the story?
COMEY: I have to give you the same answer.
WENSTRUP: OK. With or without an investigation going on, has anyone told you that they know who leaked the information or who leaked any information on Russian involvement in the U.S. elections or Russian involvement with the Trump election team?
COMEY: I'm not going to comment on that.
WENSTRUP: Is it possible that The New York Times misrepresented its sourcing for this February 14 article? Possible.
COMEY: I can't comment on that.
WENSTRUP: Is it possible that The New York Times was misled by individuals claiming to be current or former American officials.
COMEY: I'll give you the same answer, Dr. Wenstrup.
WENSTRUP: Can I ask why you can't comment on that?
COMEY: I think a number of reasons. I'm not confirming that the information in that article is accurate or inaccurate. I'm not going to get in the business of -- that we talked about earlier...
WENSTRUP: OK. Is it -- then let me ask you this.
COMEY: And there's other reasons.
COMEY: That I'm also not going to confirm whether we're investigating things, and so if I start talking about what I know about a particular article, I run the risk of stepping on both of those landmines.
WENSTRUP: I guess one more question before the time is up and we'll come back to me, but I am curious, is it possible -- and nothing to do with this article. Is it possible that a so-called source to a media outlet may actually be a Russian advocate? Nothing to do with this story per say, just is it possible that a Russian surrogate could actually be the source that a newspaper is relying on?
COMEY: In general, sure, somebody could always be pretending to be something they're not.
WENSTRUP: Thank you.
And I yield back at this time.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back.
Mr. Schiff's recognized for 15 minutes.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just a couple follow-up questions and then I'll pass it to Mr. Quigley for entering something into the record.
COMEY: Mr. Chairman, can I ask you for an estimated time? I'm not made of steel, so I might need to take a quick break.
NUNES: Would you like to do that now?
COMEY: If you can, I didn't know how much longer you planned to go.
NUNES: I think we want to keep going until the members have asked all their questions.
COMEY: OK. Just a quick rest stop?
NUNES: Yes. So we'll break for about 10 minutes.
COMEY: That's plenty.
NUNES: I'm gonna call the hearing back into order after a brief recess. I wanna get on with questions. I'm gonna yield 15 minutes to the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff.
SCHIFF: Director Comey, just a couple follow-up questions before I pass it to Mr. Quigley to enter something in the record. You've been asked a number of questions today about is it enough to open an investigation because someone travels or is enough because they have their photograph taken or enough because they attend a conference. I would imagine that you get so many leads, so many people writing to you with information that they're convinced shows (ph) a crime that if you investigated everything that people sent you, you would be squandering your investigative resources in a way you can't afford to do.
My understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that in order for you to open an investigation, you need to see credible information or evidence that someone has either committed a federal crime or become an agent of a foreign power. Is that an accurate understanding?
COMEY: Yeah, that's a fair statement. And as you said, Mr. Schiff, we have to also choose which -- we get a lot of referrals, which ones align with the threats that the FBI is trying to prioritize because we have limited resources.
SCHIFF: Exactly. So even when those criteria are met, that enough may not be -- that in and of itself may not be enough because you have so many other cases you need to investigate and you have to prioritize.
SCHIFF: I also wanna ask you, you mentioned that it wouldn't be appropriate for you to be telling reporters that stories they're writing are accurate or inaccurate when they may involve an investigation. That's not an appropriate thing for you to do.
COMEY: Correct, especially if the story involves classified information.
SCHIFF: And that's because you would either be disclosing classified information potentially in what you're confirming, or by rebutting a story that was inaccurate, you may be suggesting other stories that contain classified information or then (ph) accurate?
SCHIFF: Now, it's inappropriate for you to be batting down inaccurate stories. Would you also agree it's -- if it's inappropriate for you to be batting down inaccurate stories, would you also agree it's inappropriate for the White House to be asking the FBI to be rebutting stories they don't like?
COMEY: Yeah, that's when I don't wanna answer, Mr. Schiff, because I don't wanna talk about communications within the executive branch. I can speak for the FBI, that's not something the FBI can or should do.
SCHIFF: And if you were appearing up before the Senate for confirmation and they asked you as director of the FBI, if you were asked by the White House to refute or acknowledge press stories that they liked or didn't like, what would you tell the Senate in your confirmation hearing? Would that be appropriate for your office?
COMEY: I would figure out what was the right thing for the FBI to do and then do that thing.
SCHIFF: And that right thing would be not to be in the business of confirming or denying stories about classified information?
COMEY: Correct, that's what -- that's with the right thing is for the FBI.
SCHIFF: Let me recognize Mr. Quigley for purposes of entering something in the record.
QUIGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Ranking Member. As I do that, I'm reminded of what Hugo Black said, "Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government." I respectfully ask to enter a March 8th article entitled, "Jeff Sessions Likely Met Russian Ambassador a Third Time."
SCHIFF: I now yield to Mr. Swalwell.
SWALWELL: Thank you to our ranking member.
And thank you again to -- to our director and Admiral Rogers. Director, would you agree that the FBI, when it's considering the counterintelligence investigation, views contacts between U.S. persons and say Russia differently than it would view contacts between U.S. persons and the U.K. or France or Germans?
COMEY: Yes, very much so.
SWALWELL: And that's because they're a foreign adversary? COMEY: Correct.
SWALWELL: And so to land on Russia's radar as somebody that they may want to recruit, would you agree that being a businessperson, a prominent business person is something that would be attractive to them?
COMEY: Could be. Might depend upon what industry you're in.
SWALWELL: Could it also -- could also being a politician be something that would be attractive to them?
SWALWELL: And how about somebody who does business with Russians, would that be attractive to them?
COMEY: Could be. It would depend upon other things as well though.
SWALWELL: And we were starting to discuss this, efforts to recruit include investing in a U.S. person, is that correct?
COMEY: Efforts by Russia to invest typically?
COMEY: In their tradecraft, that can be one of the ways in which they cultivate a relationship, sure.
SWALWELL: And if you are a U.S. person with a business, could it also include investing in your business or being a partner in some of your endeavors?
COMEY: Lots of different ways someone could try and establish a relationship.
SWALWELL: And going back to compromise, can we assume that any prominent U.S. person traveling to Russia would probably be covered by Russian surveillance?
COMEY: Depend upon how you define prominent, but they have an extensive surveillance operation of foreign visitors. So no matter who you are, you ought to assume it, but whether that's true in reality is harder for me to answer.
Or do you want to answer that differently?
ROGERS: No, I agree.
SWALWELL: And Russia is attempting to recruit and persuade individuals that we've discussed before, just as other foreign adversaries are because they want to get something out of them, is that right?
COMEY: Correct. SWALWELL: And in many cases, it could be if that person is ever in a position of power that they could be in a position to influence policy in the United States.
COMEY: To influence policy or to supply them with information that's useful to them and maybe other purposes.
SWALWELL: Now, with respect to your counterintelligence investigations, would be important for you if you were concerned that a U.S. person had financial entanglements with a foreign adversary to see that persons tax returns?
COMEY: That's a hypothetical I really want to avoid answering, but the answer is it would depend really. It would depend upon a whole lot of circumstances.
SWALWELL: That would be one of the pieces of evidence that you would consider looking?
COMEY: Maybe, maybe. You -- you might be able to get the picture you need from other financial records that are more readily available.
SWALWELL: And you're aware director that President Trump has refused, breaking with tradition of the past 40 years to show the American people his tax returns?
COMEY: Not something I want to comment on. I'm aware of it from the media.
SWALWELL: Now, Russia also in their efforts to recruit individuals and develop individuals, praying on or following someone's financial distress is also an avenue number may pursue, is that right?
COMEY: Potentially, if it offers an avenue for leverage on someone.
SWALWELL: And Director, would you consider six bankruptcies that an individual may have as been a point of leverage?
COMEY: I can't say. I don't know.
SWALWELL: And Director, you're aware that President Trump is at six prior bankruptcies?
COMEY: That's not something I'm going to comment on.
SWALWELL: And Director, when your agents are conducting a counterintelligence investigation with respect to a foreign adversary in their efforts to recruit or cooperate with a U.S. person, would you look at the U.S. person's travel to that country?
COMEY: As part of evaluating whether there is an illicit relationship?
SWALWELL: Yes. COMEY: Sure.
SWALWELL: And are you familiar that President Trump has traveled at least three times to Russia?
COMEY: That's not something I'm going to comment on.
SWALWELL: Are you aware that his son, Donald Trump Jr., has traveled at least six times to Russia?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: Donald Trump has said a number of times that he has had nothing to do with Russia and I want to ask you, Director, if you're familiar with Deutsche Bank and its $300 million loan to Donald Trump and his organization.
COMEY: That's not something I'm going to comment on.
SWALWELL: Director, are you aware that Deutsche Bank has been investigated and fined over $400 million by New York State for failing to stop the corrupt transfer of more than $10 billion out of Russia?
COMEY: I think generally from press accounts.
SWALWELL: So an individual's association with the bank that has had dealings with Russian money laundering, that would be something that would be a red flag for a counterintelligence investigation I would assume.
COMEY: That's a hypo I don't want to answer.
SWALWELL: Director, would a U.S. businessperson who is associated with a foreign adversary having tenants in their office building that do business with that foreign adversary, would that be a red flag that a counterintelligence agent would look at?
COMEY: I can't answer that.
SWALWELL: Are you aware that in Trump Tower were two tenants, Vadim Trincher and Anatoly Golubchik, who ran a high-stakes illegal gambling ring that was run out of Trump Tower?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: And are you aware that the prosecutor in that case was U.S. attorney Preet Bharara?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: Are you aware, Director, that that U.S. attorney was recently fired?
SWALWELL: By the president of the United States? COMEY: Well, I don't know who fired him. I know from press accounts that he was asked to leave.
SWALWELL: Director, are you aware of Felix Sater, a former Soviet official and adviser to the Trump Organization?
COMEY: I'm not going to comment on it.
SWALWELL: And Director, outside of Mr. Sater's relationship with the Trump Organization, are you aware that the FBI knew of Mr. Sater because of a $40 million stock fraud case that was prosecuted by the federal government?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: Director, would a U.S. person having multiple trademarks in addition to the other relationships that I just described be a red flag for a counterintelligence investigation if those trademarks were in Russia?
COMEY: Multiple trademarks?
SWALWELL: Yeah, registering trademarks in a foreign adversary's country.
COMEY: I don't know what to make of that.
SWALWELL: OK. Were you aware that Donald Trump had six trademarks in Russia?
COMEY: Not going to comment on that.
SWALWELL: Were you aware that Donald Trump tried to market his Trump Vodka brand in Russia?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: Were you aware that Donald Trump ran Ms. Universe 2013 out of Moscow?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: Are you aware that Donald Trump Jr. said on a number of occasions that Russian money is pouring into the Trump Organization and that there is a disproportionate cross-section of the company's revenue coming from Russian money?
COMEY: Same answer, Mr. Swalwell.
SWALWELL: So hypothetically speaking though, would a foreign adversary and its oligarchs having a disproportionate cross-section of a company's revenue coming from that country, would that be a red flag for a counterintelligence agent?
COMEY: I'm not -- I'm trying to be helpful, but I'm not going to answer that hypo... SWALWELL: I understand. Thank you, Director. Director, are you familiar with a 2004 home purchase by President Trump in Palm Beach County for about $40 million?
COMEY: Not going to comment on that.
SWALWELL: Are you familiar with a 2008 sale of that same property for 129 percent increase at about $98 million?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: Are you aware that the buyer in 2008 was a Russian businessman?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: And under the earlier hypothetical, would a foreign adversary's oligarch purchasing a home in the United States for 129 percent more than the home was purchased four years before. Would that be a tool that a foreign adversary would use to try and recruit, develop or bring somebody onto their side?
COMEY: Same answer as before.
SWALWELL: You said that it's likely or somebody should assume they're being surveilled when they were in Russia. Would you assume that Donald Trump was being surveilled in 2013 when he was in Moscow?
COMEY: I'm not gonna answer. I -- I was trying to confine my answer to prominent people should assume, not you know, students and all those people who might go there for a brief holiday, I don't think I'd ask them to assume that.
SWALWELL: Right. Would it be safe to say that if Donald Trump was doing something he shouldn't have been doing while he was in Russia, the Russians probably saw it?
COMEY: Same answer as before.
SWALWELL: Would it be safe to assume that if a prominent person was doing something they shouldn't have been doing while they're in Russia, the Russians probably saw it?
COMEY: Yeah, I would stick to what I said before about prominent people should assume.
SWALWELL: Mr. Director, was Donald Trump under investigation during the campaign?
COMEY: Same answer as before. I'm not gonna answer that.
SWALWELL: Is he under investigation now?
COMEY: I'm not gonna answer that. Please don't over interpret what I've said as -- as the chair and ranking know, we have briefed him in great detail on the subjects of the investigation and what we're doing, but I'm not gonna answer about anybody in this forum.
SWALWELL: Director, from our perspective on the committee, the dots continue to connect. President Trump, his team, people in his orbit, to Russia. And the questions that we have, it's quite simple. Are these merely 100 different coincidences or is this a convergence where you're seeing deep personal, political and financial ties, meeting Russia's interference in our campaign?
So I'm wondering, Director, with your extensive counterintelligence expertise and in view of the Russian intelligence campaign to influence the election in which Donald Trump was candidate, do you consider this -- these number of connections between well-connected Russians and Donald Trump, the Trump Organization, the Trump family and the Trump campaign, to be a coincidence or a convergence?
COMEY: I'm not gonna answer, Mr. Swalwell.
SWALWELL: From your perspective, Director, have you ever seen in the history of American politics or at least since you've been alive, any political candidate have this many connections, personal, political and financial, to a foreign adversary?
COMEY: Same answer.
SWALWELL: Mr. Director and Admiral Rogers, this past election, our country was attacked. We were attacked by Russia. It was electronic. It was nearly invisible. Thanks to the hard work of the men and women who serve in our intelligence community, we know that the attack came from Russian. It was ordered by Vladimir Putin. He sought to help Donald Trump and to take down Hillary Clinton. The most disturbing finding for me and my fellow committee members is that Russia intends to do this again.
And I see this as an opportunity for everyone on this committee, Republicans and Democrats, to not look in the rearview window but to look forward and do everything we can to make sure that our country never again allows a foreign adversary to attack us. Because I think, Director, you and Admiral Rogers would agree that it's not only Russia that is sharpening the knives to go back at us or to go at our allies. It's also other countries who have similar capabilities. And so, I think the best thing we can do now is unite around this investigation, have also a parallel, independent commission to make sure we get to the bottom of what happened, why we were so vulnerable and to assure the American people we'll never let this happen again.
And I yield back.
NUNES: Dr. Wenstrup?
WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
If I can, gentlemen, go back to what we were talking about a little bit before with interference from the Russians possibly in through our media. Have Russians or Soviets historically attempted to spread this information through the U.S. media? As (ph) you -- you mentioned they've been there in over decades trying to interfere, they use media as a resource.
ROGERS: We see them use media writ large as a resource to disseminate disinformation, false information.
WENSTRUP: And is that -- been pretty much regardless of who's in the White House?
ROGERS: It doesn't seem to tie to a particular political party, that tactic, if you will.
WENSTRUP: Thank you.
Mr. Comey, have you ever formed -- this is going back to the article from February 14 in the New York Times, have you ever formed an articulated opinion about the article from February 14 in the New York Times?
COMEY: Have I ever formed and articulated opinion?
WENSTRUP: Formed an opinion or articulated an opinion on that article?
COMEY: I don't want to say, Dr. Wenstrup.
WENSTRUP: OK. Thank you. When I look at your jobs and thank you for being there and doing your jobs. And I mean that sincerely, your job, you -- you observe and you investigate and you assess and you try to predict and you sometimes have to act, would that be correct?
WENSTRUP: In what you do. My question is, as far as predictions and actions, Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election for the United States presidency. Which certainly most had predicted, I would conject (ph) that even the Russians predicted that she would win. What -- what were the Russians planning for November 9 and beyond that had she won. You mentioned before, and the reason I ask that -- you mentioned before you said they'll be back.
My question is have they left? Because I -- I would contend they haven't left. This isn't something they their turning on and off. This is a constant. So any -- any idea what -- what may have happened November 9 and beyond that had she won?
COMEY: Hard to say.
WENSTRUP: The pattern has been to interrupt us regardless of who is in the White House.
COMEY: Yes. They want to mess with us and in a continuing and general way. It's hard to answer the counterfactual. I assume they would've continued their efforts to undermine President-Elect (sic) Clinton as they had begun doing during the summer, especially with European allies to create a divide there and probably lots of other things. What I meant by they'll be back is, they're not going away. But in the -- in the -- I mean that that in the sense of their next opportunity to mess with our election is two years from now and in four years. That's what I meant by back.
WENSTRUP: Thank you. I think your job is -- is difficult because there's a lot of conjecture about any relationship with Russians in general and questions from me and others about, can I meet with the Russian ambassador? Does that get me investigated? Business ties here and there, you know, I mean currently we share a space station with Russians. We buy engines from the Russians for -- for our rockets and in the '90s we had joint military exercises with the Russians. It gets a little bit tough as -- for you guys decide what and -- and when do we investigate and I appreciate you taking the time with us today.
And I yield back.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back.
STEWART: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And to the witnesses, thank you both. You know, I'm impressed. I was a B-1 pilot, when I took off one of the first certain (ph) thoughts I had was how long is it going to be until I get to go to bathroom? You guys went almost 4 hours. Our plan was to keep you here until you are in such pain that you would just answer all of our questions.
I have a list of questions here but I want to divert a little bit and -- and follow up on some of things that have been said here today. Mr. Comey, you confirmed that there's an investigation in the Trump campaign officials. The fact that there is an open investigation does not indicate guilt though, does it? COMEY: Certainly not.
STEWART: And in fact many times in an investigation may find that there is no wrongdoing.
COMEY: That's one of the reasons we don't talk about it, so we don't smear people who don't end up charged with anything.
STEWART: I appreciate that and I would say that is especially likely to have, when I say especially talking about have the finding of no wrongdoing when there is a political motive. And if there's one thing that we've seen here today, I think, from some of the line of questions is clearly been a certain political motive in some of the questions that have been asked to you.
Mr. Clapper, the former DNI, and we all know who he is, this is someone who should know. I want to read what he said just a few weeks ago. Mr. Clapper then went on to say that to his knowledge there was no evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. We did not conclude any evidence in our report and when I say "our report," that is the NSA, FBI, and CIA with my office, the director of national intelligence said anything -- any reflection of collusion between the members of Trump campaign and the Russians, there was no evidence of that in our report.
Was Mr. Clapper wrong when he said that?
COMEY: I think he's right about characterizing the report which you all have read.
STEWART: Well, I want you to know I agree with Mr. Clapper. And at this point, everyone on this dais should agree with Mr. Clapper because we in the committee have seen no evidence, zero, that would indicate that there was collusion or criminal wrongdoing between any members of the previous administration or campaign and Russian officials.
And I'm going to comment very quickly on the leaks. You've said very clearly that it is a crime, both of you have said that, you've indicated it endangers national security which I certainly agree with. It makes it hard for us to reauthorize very important tools that we will need in order to protect our national security and many times, it's inaccurate.
And I would ask you then if someone in intelligence community has some concerns, if they feel like there's been an overreach or the government is doing something they shouldn't be doing, any government official, is there a process they can go to where they could make that known and express their concerns?
COMEY: Yes. All of us, the intelligence community have robust whistleblower provisions that we educate our folks on and part of the whistleblower track is they can bring information to the appropriate committee of Congress.
STEWART: That's exactly right and are both of your agencies capable of handling accusations agree with me on that. I'd like to shift quickly if I could to the integrity of the report which the previous DNI when he determined along with your acquiescence, I might add, both of you, that Russia developed a clear preference for Mr. Trump and this is a huge deal. I mean, think about this story the American people have been told and some believe that our president was elected maybe because of the influence of a foreign government.
And I love you guys, you know that, and I defend you and we respect what you do but I do need to make this point and that is the intelligence community is not perfect, is it?
COMEY: Not perfect?
COMEY: Certainly not.
STEWART: Certainly not. We...
COMEY: I can speak for me, I don't -- he might be perfect.
STEWART: Mr. Rogers, I'll allow you to answer the same question.
ROGERS: I am not -- same as the Director.
STEWART: And as has been indicated here, and look again, that's not a criticism, it's just the human endeavor. We sometimes make mistakes as do agencies sometimes make mistakes and all of us can think of examples of that including meaningful mistakes, by the way. Mistakes that had clear implications for our policy. And as has been indicated here as well, there's a difference in the level of confidence.
Now, Mr. Comey, you have a higher degree of confidence in this report than you do, don't you Mr. Rogers?
ROGERS: To be specific, a different level of content on one specific assessment or judgment...
STEWART: Understanding (ph)...
ROGERS: But a concurrent overall, in that judgment.
STEWART: But that one judgment, that one is in a very important part of this report. And if I could make just this last point and this is an important point, I think. And that is the difficulty of determining motive. I mean, we can go back, we can look at facts. We can look at what happened. We can often determine who did it, who they did it with, when they did it. But to determine motive, you've got to crawl inside someone's head. And that's much, much more difficult.
And in fact, quoting from the preamble in this report, talking about a leader's intentions. It says, this objective is difficult to achieve when seeking to understand complex issues in which foreign actors go to extraordinary lengths to hide and obfuscate their activities. Once again, we're trying to determine motive, which is very different -- difficult. Do you agree with that? The determining motive is one of the most difficult challenges when it comes to an intelligence analysis?
COMEY: I -- I do Mr. Stewart. And I should -- I should emphasize something that Admiral Rogers said earlier, we made no judgment on whether the Russians were successful in any way and having an impact on the election, I just wanna be clear. That -- that's not in report because we didn't opine on it. We didn't -- that's not within our -- our...
STEWART: I understand that, but we're looking at Russian activities. And we're making a conclusion of why they did that. In this case, that they preferred one -- one candidate over the other. I was in Moscow last August. I came home and I did some media interviews and talked to some folks. And I said, they're gonna mess with our elections. And that wasn't based on any intelligence analyst or specific information, this was just based on history, we knew that they would. And I was always asked, well, who do they want to win?
And I said then, I don't think they care. I don't think they A, could believe they could determine who would win and others (ph), as we've said here a number of times, they just want to break down the foundation, they just want to break the trust in our institutions. They want to take away that faith we have in our electoral process. And by the way, the intelligence community agreed with us, with me, on that analysis. For a long, long time, up until December. And then suddenly, they didn't.
And was when the president asked for this report and he asked for it to be concluded very quickly and then the analysis changed entirely. And -- and it went from no, no, no, they don't really care to no, no, they want Mr. Trump to win. And I think there's another plausible explanation, which is what I want to talk about in the few minutes that I have remaining. Let me begin by asking you, do you think that the Russians expected Secretary Clinton to win the election?
COMEY: Yes, as of August certainly, August, September.
STEWART: OK. Well, look, Mr. Comey you indicated as of August, September, do you believe they ever came to a conclusion that you know what? Mr. Trump's going to win.
COMEY: No, our -- the assessment of the intelligence community was that early on, they thought he might have a shot. And so they wanted to mess with our election, hurt our country in general, that's always the baseline. They hated her, Secretary Clinton, wanted to harm her and thought they might have a chance to help Mr. Trump. And then later, concluded that Mr. Trump was hopeless and they would focus then on just trying to undermine Secretary Clinton, especially with the European allies.
STEWART: Got that, so up -- up until summer and through the fall, they believe that Secretary Clinton would win, is that true?
COMEY: I think the assessment was, late in the summer, they concluded based on the polling I think a lot of people were reading, that Mr. Trump didn't have a chance. And they shifted to just focusing on just trying to undermine her.
STEWART: And I tell you, if you were to tell me and I know you didn't but I'm just saying, if anyone were to tell me that they concluded Mr. Trump is going to win. I'd just say they're nuts, because there was no one in the world who thought that. Every media organization, every political organization, every government organization that I'm familiar with last fall thought that Secretary Clinton would be the next President of the United States.
COMEY: I think the Russians agreed.
STEWART: I -- absolutely they did agree. Then this is the point and this is such a fine line, but it's such an important point, and that is how can you know for certain if the Russians were motivated by hurting the person they thought in fact, fully expected was going to be the next President of the United States and comparing that with a mode (ph) of this kind of a Hail Mary pass. You know what, maybe this guy's got a shot. Let's try and help him get elected because those motives would be -- and that's -- that' again coming back to my original point, determining motives is very difficult.
You have to either have very direct information or you have to be able to get inside someone's head and really figure out what it is that's driving them. And knowing the Russians expected Secretary Clinton to win, would you see that some of those things that they've done would be consistent with undermining her presidency, not necessarily because they thought Mr. Trump was going to win and they wanted help.
COMEY: Again, I think it's too close related sides of the same coin. I mean, to put it in a homely metaphor, I hate the New England Patriots and no matter who they play, I'd like them to lose. And so I'm at the same time rooting against the Patriots and hoping their opponent beats them. Because only two teams on the field but what the intelligence community concluded was early on, the hatred for Mrs. Clinton was -- was all the way along.
When Mr. Trump became the nominee, there was some sense that it'd be great if he could win, be great if we could help him. But we need to hurt her to matter what and then it shifted to he has no chance so let's just focus on undermining her. That was the judgment of the intelligence community.
ROGERS: Well, I'd also if I could highlight, I acknowledge the challenge at times about trying to understand intent, but the level -- we're not going to go in any specifics in an open unclassified forum. But the level of sourcing, the multiple sources we had, which were able to independently corroborate the judgment. And there's a reason why we were high confidence in everything, except just one issue.
ROGERS: To include the intent.
STEWART: I understand. I spent some time out at the CIA last week. I went -- was with the staff as best we could, through the 2000 some odd pages and by the way, not many people did. And some people are casting, you know, aspirations (ph) and not making the effort to go out there and actually look at that.
But I'm telling you that having done that, I think a reasonable person could say what I've said here today, that there is another -- another element to this. That there is another, as you said Mr. Comey, another side of the coin. And this is a very, very difficult to, in my opinion, thing to say with high levels of confidence. Which is why, once again the intelligence community isn't perfect sometimes. And we do make mistakes.
And Mr. Chairman, I yield back. I'd like to come back for just a few minutes if we could after.
NUNES: Gentleman yields back.
Mr. Schiff's recognized. SCHIFF:
Thank you. Just a couple of quick follow up questions by myself and Mr. Himes and then we'll go to Mr. Castro.
Director, you were asked about the Director Clapper's comments and I think your response indicated that they were correct as far as the unclassified intelligence assessment goes.
COMEY: Yes. I understood the question to be about the report itself.
SCHIFF: I want to make it clear to people though the intelligence assessment -- the unclassified intelligence assessment doesn't discuss the issue of U.S. person coordination with the Russians. And I assume that's because at the time of the report in January of this year that was under an investigation that you have now disclosed, is that right?
COMEY: Correct. The counterintelligence investigation is the FBI's business. The IC report was about what the intelligence community had about what Russia had done. So there is nothing in the report about coordination writing like that. It's a separate responsibly the FBI to try and understand that, investigate it and -- and assess it.
SCHIFF: So we shouldn't read Mr. Clapper's comments as suggesting that he takes a different view of whether you had sufficient -- sufficiently credible information and evidence to initiate a FBI counterintelligence investigation.
COMEY: I don't know exactly what he meant. All I can say is what -- what the fact is which as we just laid out. There's the report and then there's our investigation.
SCHIFF: And the report doesn't cover the investigation?
SCHIFF: Mr. Himes?
HIMES: Thank you, Mr. Schiff.
Gentlemen, in my original questions to you, I asked you whether the intelligence community had undertaken any sort of study to determine whether Russian interference had had any influence on the electoral process and I think you told me the answer was -- was no.
ROGERS: Correct, we said the U.S. intelligence community does not do analysis or reporting on the U.S. political process or U.S. public opinion, that is not our...
HIMES: OK. So thanks to the modern technology that's in front of me right here, I've got a tweet from the president an hour ago, saying the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process so that's not quite accurate, that tweet?
COMEY: I'm sorry, I haven't been following anybody on Twitter while I've been sitting here...
HIMES: I can read it to you. It says the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral -- the electoral process. This tweet has gone out to millions of Americans, 16.1 million to be exact. Is the tweet, as I read it to you, the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process. Is that accurate?
COMEY: Well, it's hard for me to react to that, let me just tell you what we understand the -- the state of what we've said is. We've offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it's never something that we looked at.
HIMES: OK. So it's not too far of a logical leap to conclude that your -- that the assertion that you have told the Congress that there was no influence on the electoral process is not quite right?
COMEY: Right, it wasn't -- it certainly wasn't our intention to say that today because we don't have any information on that subject. And that's not something that was looked at.
HIMES: Right. Admiral Rogers, before I -- before I yield back to the ranking member, there's another tweet that says NSA Director Rogers tells Congress unmasking individuals endangers national security. My understanding was, as a member of the committee, that there is a lengthy and very specific process for the unmasking but that it does not inherently in of itself endanger national security.
ROGERS: I assume the comment is designed to address the leaking of such information, but again, I -- I have not read what you're saying to me so I'm not in a position to comment on it, sir.
HIMES: Thank you, I'll yield back to the ranking member.
SCHIFF: Mr. Castro?
CASTRO: Thank you. And thank you gentlemen for your service to the nation and for your testimony today. I wanna take a moment to turn the Christopher Steele dossier, which was first mentioned in the media just before the election and published in full by media outlets in January. My focus today is to explore how many claims within Steele's dossier are looking more and more likely, as though they are accurate. First, let me ask you, can you describe who Christopher Steele is?
Local Politics Alerts
Breaking news about local government in D.C., Md., Va.
COMEY: No, I'm not gonna comment on that.
CASTRO: Are you investigating the claims made in the dossier?
trump would never do anything to go against Mogilevich’s wishes. Unless and until Putin takes care of Mogilevich for trump, trump would never expose his boss
Predatortrump-Russia is the most complex political scandal in American history