tv Squawk Alley CNBC March 20, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm EDT
nine -- nine current and former officials who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the call spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, and that officials began poring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications, and diplomatic cables. in february of this year, "the new york times" reported a u.s. citizen whose name i will not use discusses sanctions with the russian ambassador in a phone call, according to officials who have seen a transcript of the wiretapped conversation. and again in february of this year, "the new york times" reported on a phone call involving a u.s. citizen,
including significant discussions of phone records, intercepted calls, intercepted communications, and reported the nsa captured calls and then asked the fbi to collect as much information as possible. my time is up, so i will say this for this round. i thought it was against the law to disseminate classified information. is it? >> oh, yes. sure. it's a serious crime. i'm not going to comment on those particular articles because i don't want to in any circumstance compound a criminal act by confirming that it was classified information. but in general, yes, it's a serious crime, and it should be, for the reasons you said. >> we'll take it back up next round, mr. chairman. >> gentleman yields back. i'll now yield 15 minutes to mr. schiff. >> director comey, i want to begin by attempting to put to rest several claims made by the
president about his predecessor, namely, that president obama wiretapped his phones, so that we can be precise, i want to refer you to exactly what the president said and ask you whether there is any truth to it. first, the president claimed, "terrible. just found out that obama had my wires tapped in trump tower just before the victory. nothing found. this is mccarthyism." director comey, was the president's statement that obama had his wires tapped in trump tower a true statement? >> with respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, i have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the fbi. the department of justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the department of justice in all its components. the department has no information that supports those tweets.
>> the president accused mr. obama, and presumably, the fbi, of engaging in mccarthyism. as you understand the term mccarthyism, do you think president obama or the fbi was engaged in such conduct? >> i'm not going to try and characterize the tweets themselves. all i can tell you is that we have no information that supports them. >> were you engaged in mccarthyism, director comey? >> i try very hard not to engage in any isms of any kind, including mccarthyism. >> the president second stated, "is it legal for a sitting president to be wiretapping a race for president prior to an election? turned down a court earlier, a nowhere low." director comey, can you answer the president's question? would it be legal for president obama to have ordered a wiretap of donald trump? >> i'm not going to characterize or respond to the tweets themselves. i can tell you in general, as admiral rogers and i were just saying, there is a statutory framework in the united states
under which courts grant permission for electronic surveillance, either in a criminal case or in a national security case, based on a showing of probable cause, carefully overseen. it's a rigorous process that involves all three branches of government, and it's one we've lived with since the late 1970s. that's how it works. >> so -- >> so, no individual in the united states can direct electronic surveillance of anyone. it has to go through an application process, ask a judge. the judge can then make the order. >> so, president obama could not unilaterally order a wiretap of anyone? >> no president could. >> mr. trump also asserted in that tweet that he was -- that the application or the president's order was turned down by a court. was there any request made by the fbi or justice department to wiretap donald trump turned down by a court? >> that's one of those subjects
i can't comment on one way or another. please don't interpret that in any way other than i just can't talk about anything that relates to the fisa process in an open setting. >> third, the president stated, "i bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that president obama was tapping my phones in october, just prior to the election." now director comey, you're a good lawyer. can you make out a great case that president obama wiretapped mr. trump's phones just prior to the election, in light of the fact you've said there's no evidence of that? >> all i can say is what i said before, that we don't have any information that supports those tweets. >> well, in my view, then, you would not be a great, but very unethical lawyer to make that such a case. and finally, the president made the final accusation -- "how low has president obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? this is nixon/watergate, bad or sick guy." the president haas compared president obama to mr. nixon and
compared the wiretap of trump phones as another watergate. what was the gravamen of the offense by nixon during watergate? a lot of people watching may be too young to understand what watergate was about. what was the gravamen of that offense? >> as i recall -- and i was a kid but have studied it quite a bit in school -- the gravamen of it was an abuse of power, including break-ins, unlawful wiretaps, obstruction of justice, sort of the cycle of criminal conduct. >> it was a break-in of the democratic headquarters by operatives of the president, was it not? >> my understanding is that's how it began, the investigation began. >> it also involved a cover-up by the president. >> yes, as i said. >> now, here i think you've said there's been no evidence of an illegal wiretap by president obama. is that right? >> i've said the fbi and the department of justice have no information to support those tweets.
>> but there is evidence, is there not, of a break-in of the democratic headquarters by a foreign power using cyber means? >> yes, there was, as the intelligence community report, the unclass report said in january, the russian intelligence services hacked into a number of enterprises in the united states, including the democratic national committee. >> and there was an effort by the russians to cover up their break-in of the democratic party headquarters by using cutouts like wikileaks to publish the stolen material. isn't that right? >> certainly, to cover up that they were the ones releasing it. >> director rogers, in an effort to explain why there was no evidence supporting the president's claim that obama had wiretapped him, the president and spokesman sean spicer have suggested that british intelligence through its nsa, or gchq, wiretapped mr. trump on president obama's behalf.
did you ever request that your counterparts in gchq should wiretap mr. trump on behalf of president obama? >> no, sir, nor would i. that would be expressly against the construct of the fisa agreement that's been in place for decades. >> and the five eyes are some of our closest intelligence partners, and britain is one of them. >> yes, sir. >> have you seen any evidence that anyone else in the obama administration made such a request? >> no, sir. and again, my view is the same as director comey. i've seen nothing on the nsa side that we engaged in any such activity, nor that anyone ever asked us to engage in such activity. >> and if you were to ask the british to spy on an american, that would be a violation of u.s. law, would it not? >> yes, sir. >> our relationship with british intelligence is one of the closest we have with any foreign services, isn't that true? >> yes, sir. >> now, our british allies have called the president's suggestion that they wiretapped him for obama nonsense and ut r utterly ridiculous.
would you agree? >> yes, sir. >> does it do damage to our relationship with one of our closest intelligence partners for the president to make a baseless claim that the british participated in a conspiracy against him? >> i think it clearly frustrates a key ally of ours. >> certainly wouldn't endear the british intelligence services to continue working with us, would it? >> i believe that the relationship is strong enough, this is something we'll be able to deal with. >> but it's not helpful, you agree. >> the president recently met with german chancellor angela merkel, and during the joint press conference, trump suggested they had something in common, they had both been wiretapped by president obama. director comey just demonstrated why the claims by the president about his being wiretapped by obama were unsupported by any evidence, but the claim he made about wiretapping directed at
merkel referred to something that came up in the context of the snowden disclosures. i'm not going to ask you to comment on whether the chancellor was the suggest of any eavesdropping, but i would like to ask you whether the snowden disclosures did damage to our relationship with our german ally and whether the chancellor herself expressed her concern at the time. >> yes, sir. >> in light of this, is it helpful to our relationship with the chancellor or our relationship with german intelligence to bring this up again in a public forum? >> it certainly complicates things, but again, i'd like to think that our relationship is such, we're going to be able to deal and keep moving forward. >> so, our relationships with the british and the germans you hope are strong enough to withstand any damage done by these comments. >> by anything in general, sir. we have foundational interests with each other. we need to keep working together. >> at this time, director comey, let me ask you a few questions you may or may not be able to answer.
do you know who roger stone is? >> generally, yes. >> are you aware that he was a partner of paul manafort? >> mr. schiff, i'm worried we're going to a place i don't want to go, which is commenting on any particular person, and so, i don't think i should comment. i'm aware of public accounts, but i don't want to talk more than that. >> are you aware that he has publicly acknowledged having directly communicated with gu goosef ratof, a subject of russian media intelligence? >> i've read media accounts to that effect. i don't want to hurt anyone's feelings in the media. i don't know whether that's accurate or not. >> if mr. stone acknowledged mr. podesta's time in the barrel was coming in august of 2016,
prior to the public release of stolen e-mails of mr. podesta's? >> i believe that's the correct chronology. >> do you know how mr. stone would have known that mr. podesta's e-mails were going to be released? >> it's not something i can comment on. >> do you know that mr. podesta has said that at the time he wasn't even aware whether his e-mails that had been stolen would be published? >> it's not something i can comment on. >> at this point, mr. chairman, i'm going to yield to mr. himes. >> thank you to the ranking member, and gentlemen, thank you for being with us today. let me -- when i get my own time, i'll have some follow-up questions, but let me start with a point that the chairman brought out i think very specifically, which is that there's no evidence that votes were technically changed in any of the jurisdictions that he
named. admiral rogers, thanks for confirming that. but am i correct that when we say russian hacking, what we are referring to is the fact that the intelligence community believes that the russians penetrated the networks of the dnc, of john podesta, and other individuals, stole information, and then disseminated that information. is that a fair characterization of the conclusions of the intelligence community? >> yes, sir. >> and did the intelligence community ever do an analysis as to whether the dissemination of that adverse information in a closely fought election had any evidence on the american electorate? >> no, sir. the u.s. intelligence committee does not do assessments of policies -- >> of course not. >> -- of opinion -- >> that's not your job. >> yes, sir. >> as a matter of fact, some of us who go through campaigns know that's probably something we have a little more understanding of. let me just ask this question, then. was there any equivalent,
dissemination of adverse information stolen from the rnc or individuals associated with the trump campaign? >> no. >> thank you. director comey, in the remaining minutes here, i appreciate your frankness on the topic of an ongoing investigation and appreciate your inability to go too much further than you went, but i do want to ask you a question to try to clear up some confusion. this committee, of course, is engaged in investigation about links, as you said, between the trump campaign and the russians, should there be any possible collusion. we've had a number of statements very early in the investigation that there was no evidence of collusion. this is still very early in our investigation. is it fair to say that you're still relatively early in your investigation?
>> it's hard to say because i don't know how much longer it will take, but we've been doing this -- this investigation began in late july. so, for a counterintelligence investigation, that's a fairly short period of time. >> so, you used the word coordination, which to me suggests that you are, in fact, investigating whether there was coordination between u.s. persons and the russians. is it fair for me to assume that we shouldn't simply dismiss the possibility that there was coordination or collusion between the russian efforts and u.s. persons as an investigatory body? >> all i can tell you is what we're investigating, which includes whether there was any coordination between people associated with the trump campaign and the russians. >> okay, thank you. i'll yield the remaining time to the ranking member. >> i will yield the remaining time this period to representative sewell. >> thank you. so, with respect to the
coordination, director comey, i just wanted to continue this line of questioning. can you say with any specificity what kind of coordination or contacts you're looking at in your investigation generally when confronted with something like this? >> i can't. >> can you discuss whether or not there was any knowledge by any trump-related person and the russians? >> i can't. >> so, with respect to any ongoing investigation, whether the specificity of the person, u.s. person or otherwise, you can't comment on any of that? >> correct. >> okay. can you characterize what the nature of your investigation generally -- when you do an investigation of this sort, can you talk a little bit about the process, generally? >> not a whole lot.
i can tell you we use our great, great people, we coordinate with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the intelligence community to see what they may know from around the world that may be useful to us and we use all of the tools and techniques that we use in all of our investigations. i'm not sure that's useful to you, but that's the most i can say. >> how long does a counterintelligence investigation like this usually take? you say it started in july. >> there is no usually. it's hard -- it's impossible to say, frankly. >> i yield back my time. >> thank you, ms. sewell. we'll go back to -- i'll yield myself 15 minutes, and we'll go back to mr. gowdy. >> thank you. we were discussing the felonious dissemination of classified material in the last round. is there an exception in the law for current or former u.s. officials who request anonymity? >> to release classified information? >> yes, sir. >> no. >> is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to
break a story? >> well, that's a harder question as to whether a reporter incurs criminal liability by publishing classified information and one probably beyond me. i'm not as good a lawyer as mr. schiff said i used to. >> well, i don't know about that, but the statute does use the word publish, doesn't it? >> it does, but that's a question i know the department of justice has struggled with through administration to administration. >> i know they struggled with it, the fourth circuit struggled with it, lots of people struggled with it but you're not aware of anything in the current statute that carves out an exception for reporters? >> no, i'm not aware of anything carved out in the statute. i don't think a reporter's been prosecuted, certainly in my lifetime though. >> well, there have been a lot of statutes at bar in this investigation for which no one's ever been prosecuted or convicted, and that does not keep people from discussing those statutes, namely, the logan act. in theory, how would reporters know a u.s. citizen made a
telephone call to an agent of a foreign power? >> how would they know legally? >> yes. >> if it was declassified and then discussed in a judicial proceeding or a congressional hearing, something like that. >> and assume none of those facts are at play, how would they know? >> someone told them who shouldn't have told them. >> how would a reporter know about the existence of intercepted phone calls? >> same thing. in a legitimate way, through an appropriate proceeding where there's been declassification, and any other way in an ill lel ji illegitimate way. >> how would reporters know if a transcript existed of an intercepted communication? >> same answer. the only legitimate way would be through a proceeding, appropriate proceeding. the illegitimate way would be somebody told them who shouldn't have told hem. >> what does the term mask mean in the concept of fisa and other surveillance programs? >> as director rogers explained, it's our practice, approved by the fisa court, of removing the
names of u.s. persons to protect their privacy and their identity, unless it hits certain exceptions. so, masking means, as mike rogers said, i'll often see a intelligence report from nsa that will say, u.s. person number one, u.s. person number two, u.s. person number three, and there's no further identification on the document. >> admiral rogers said there are 20 people within the nsa that are part of the unmasking process. how many people within the fbi are part of the unmasking process? >> i don't know for sure as i sit here. surely more, given the nature of the fbi's work. we come into contact with u.s. persons a whole lot more than the nsa does because we may be conducting -- we only conduct our operations in the united states to collect electronic surveillance, so i can find out the exact number. i don't know it as i sit here. >> well, i think, director comey, given the fact that you and i agree this is critical, vital, indispensable, a similar program is coming up for reauthorization this fall with a pretty strong headwind right now, it would be nice to know
the universe of people who have the power to unmask a u.s. citizen's name, because that might provide something of a roadmap to investigate who might have actually disseminated a masked u.s. citizen's name. >> sure. the number is relevant. what i hope the american people will realize is the number's important, but the culture behind it is, in fact, more important, the training, the rigor, the discipline. we are obsessive about fisa in the fbi for reasons i hope make sense to this committee, but we are, everything that's fisa has to be labeled in such a way to warn people, this is fisa, we treat this in a special way. so, we can get you the number, but i want to assure you, the culture of the fbi and the nsa around how we treat u.s. person information is obsessive, and i mean that in a good way. >> director comey, i am not arguing with you, and i do agree the culture is important, but if there are 100 people who have the ability to unmask and the knowledge of a previously masked
name, then that's 100 different potential sources of investigation. and the smaller the number is, the easier your investigation is. so, the number is relevant. i concede the culture is relevant. nsa, fbi, what other u.s. government agencies have the authority to unmask a u.s. citizen's name? >> i think all agencies that collect information pursuant to fisa have what are called standard minimization procedures, which are approved by the fisa court that govern how they will treat u.s. person information. so, i know the nsa does, i know the cia does, obviously the fbi does. i don't know for sure behind that. >> how about the department of -- how about main justice? >> i think they do have standard minimization procedures. >> all right, so that's four. nsa, fbi, cia, main justice. does the white house have the
authority to unmask a u.s. citizen's name? >> i think other elements of the government that are consumers of our products can ask the collectors to unmask. the unmasking resides with those who collected the information. and so, if mike rogers' folks collected something and they sent it to me in a report and it says "u.s. person number one," and it's important for the fbi to know who that is, our request will go back to them. the white house can make similar requests of the fbi or nsa, but they don't on their own collect, so they can't on their own unmask. did i get that about correct? yeah. >> so i guess what i'm getting at is you say it's vital, it's critical, it's indispensable. we both know it's a threat to the reauthorization of 702 later this fall, and oh, by the way, it's also a felony punishable by up to ten years. so, how would you begin your investigation, assuming for the sake of argument, that a u.s. citizen's name appeared in the "washington post" and "the new york times", unlawfully? where would you begin that investigation? >> well, i'm not going to talk
about any particular investigation -- >> that's why i said in theory. >> you would start figuring out, who are the suspects? who touched the information that you've concluded ended up unlawfully in the newspaper, and start with that universe, and then use investigative tools and techniques to see if you can eliminate people or include people as more serious suspects. >> do you know whether director clapper knew the name of the u.s. citizen that appeared in "the new york times" and "washington post"? >> i can't say in this forum, because again, i don't want to confirm that there was classified information in the newspaper. >> would he have access to an unmasked name? >> in some circumstances, sure. he was the director of national intelligence, but i'm not talking about the particular. >> would director brennan have access to an unmasked u.s. citizen's name? >> in some circumstances, yes. >> would national security adviser susan rice have access to an unmasked u.s. citizen's name? >> yes, in general, and any other national security adviser would, i think, as a matter of their ordinary course of their
business. >> would former white house adviser ben rhodes have access to an unmasked u.s. citizen's name? >> i don't know the answer to that. >> would former attorney general loretta lynch have access to an unmasked u.s. citizen's name? >> in general, yes, as would any attorney general. >> so, that would also include acting a.g. sally yates? >> same answer. >> did you brief president obama on -- i'll just ask you -- did you brief president obama on any calls involving michael flynn? >> i'm not going to get into either that particular case, that matter, or any conversations i had with the president, so i can't answer that. >> director comey, there's been some speculation this morning on motive. i'm not all that interested in motive. first of all, it's really hard to prove. secondarily, you never have to
prove it. but i get that people want to know. i get the jury always wants to know why. i think you and i can agree there are a couple of reasons that you would not have to unlawfully, feloniously disseminate classified material. it certainly wasn't done to help an ongoing criminal investigation, because you already had the information, didn't you? >> again, i can't answer in the context of this particular matter. >> how about in theory? is there something a reporter would have access to that the head of the fbi would not? >> it's hard for me to answer. i would hope not when it relates to -- >> i would hope not, too, since it's part of our surveillance programs. i would hope that you had access to everything as the head of the world's premier law enforcement agency. i would hope that you had it all. so, if you had it all, the motive couldn't have been to help you, because you already had it. and admiral rogers, the motive couldn't have been to help you,
because you already had it. so, in the universe of possible motives for the felonious dissemination of classified material, we could rule out wanting to help the intelligence communities and the law enforcement communities. those are two motives that are gone now. that leaves some more nefarious motives. is the investigation into the leak of classified information -- has it begun yet? >> i can't say because i don't want to confirm that that was classified information. >> well, i don't want to quarrel with you, director comey, and i do understand that you cannot ordinarily confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, but you did it this morning citing doj policy, given the gravity of the fact pattern. would you not agree that surveillance programs that are critical, indispensable, vital to our national security, some of which are up for reauthorization this fall, that
save american lives and prevent terrorist attacks also rises to the level of important? >> i think those programs are vital, and leaks of information collected pursuant to court order under those programs are terrible. and as i said in my opening statement, they should be taken very, very seriously. what i don't ever want to do is compound what bad people have done and confirm something that's in the newspaper. sometimes the newspaper gets it right. there's a whole lot of wrong information about, allegedly, about classified activities that's in the newspaper. we don't call them and correct them, either. that's another big challenge, but we just don't go anywhere near it because we don't want to help and compound the offense that was committed. >> i understand that, director comey, and i'm trying really hard not to get you to discuss the facts at bar, but some of the words that appeared in this public reporting include the word transcript, which has a very unique use in the matters that you and i are discussing this morning. that is a very unique use of that word. wiretap has a very specific meaning. the name of a u.s. citizen that
was supposed to statutorily be protected is no longer protected. so, some of this reporting -- let's assume 90% of it is inaccurate. that other 10% is still really, really important. and to the extent that you can rely on the dates in either the "washington post" or "the new york times," we are talking about february of this year is when the reporting first took place. so, we're a month and a half or two months into something that you and i agree is incredibly important and also happens to be a felony. so, i'm just simply asking you to assure the american people. you've already assured them you take it really seriously. can you assure them that it is going to be investigated? >> i can't, but i hope people watching know how seriously we take leaks of classified information, but i don't want to confirm it by saying we're investigating it, and i'm sorry i have to draw that line. i just think that's the right
way to be. >> well, i'm not going to argue with you, director comey, but it is -- you know, we're going to discuss a lot of important things today, whether russia attempted to influence our democratic process is incredibly important. whether they sought to influence it is a separate analysis, incredibly important. motive behind that interference and influence, incredibly important. our u.s. response, incredibly important. some of that may rise to the level of a crime. some of it does not rise to the level of a crime. one thing you and i agree on is the felonious dissemination of classified material most definitely is a crime. so, i would ask you, and i understand some of the procedures that you are up against -- i would humbly ask you to seek authority from whomever you need to seek authority from.
because i'm going to finish the same way i started. this is an agreement between the american people and its government. we are going to -- we, the american people, give certain powers to government to keep us safe, and when those powers are misused and the motive is not criminal investigations or national security, then i'll bet you my fellow citizens are rethinking their side of the equation. because that u.s. citizen could be them next time. it could be you. it could be me. it could be anyone until we start seriously investigating what congress thought was serious enough to attach a ten-year felony to. with that, i would yield back, mr. chairman. >> can i just add a response to what you said? i agree with you, mr. gowdy. two things folks at home should know. first, an unauthorized disclosure of fisa is an extraordinarily unusual event, so be assured we're going to
take it very seriously, because our trust -- the american people and the federal judges that oversee our work is vital. and second, that this conversation has nothing to do with 702. folks often mix them together. 702 is about targeting non-u.s. persons overseas. pursuant to the fisa statute, the fbi can apply to collect electronic surveillance in the united states, but it's a different thing from 702. the conversation you and i are just having is about this, which is vital and important, but i just didn't want to leave folks confused. >> director comey, you are 100% correct, and i am 100% correct in saying that that is a distinction that doesn't make a difference to most of the people watching television. you are exactly correct. what we are reauthorizing this fall has nothing to do with what we are discussing, other than it is another government program where the people consent to allow government to pursue certain things with the explicit promise it will be protected. so, you're right, they're different. but in the eyes of people watching, it is the u.s.
government officials leaking the name of a u.s. citizen. and if it can happen here it may happen there. trust me, you and i both want to see it reauthorized. it is in jeopardy if we don't get this resolved. >> gentleman's time has expired. i'll yield 15 minutes to mr. schiff. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i just want to follow up with a few questions about roger stone that i had started with earlier, before i passed it to my colleagues. director comey, are you aware that roger stone played a role on the trump campaign? >> i am not going to talk about any particular person here today, mr. schiff. >> i'm going to continue to ask these questions because one of the things i want to make sure you are aware of these facts, so whether you're able to comment on them or not. have you read press reports where mr. stone proudly boasts of engaging in political dirty tricks? >> i'll give you the same answer, sir. >> i mentioned before that mr. stone was in direct communication with a creature of russian gru guccifer 2, and
that's something the government talked about the role of guccifer 2. are you aware that he received communication from guccifer 2 saying "i'm pleased to say that you are great. please let me know if i can help you anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me." are you aware of that communication essentially from russian communication gru through guccifer 2 to mr. stone? >> i'd have to give you the same answer. >> are you aware that mr. stone said he was in direct communication with julian assange and wikileaks? >> same answer. >> are you aware that mr. stone said he was in touch with an intermediary of mr. assange? >> same answer. >> this question i think you can answer. do you know whether the russian intelligence services dealt directly with wikileaks or whether they, too, used an intermediary? >> we assessed they used some kind of cutout. they didn't deal directly with
wikileaks, in contrast to dc leaks and guccifer 2.0. >> in early october, are you aware that mr. stone tweeted, "i have total confidence that my hero, julian assange, will educate the american people soon"? are you aware of that tweet? >> back to my original same answer. >> and are you aware that it was only days later that wikileaks released the podesta e-mails? >> same answer. >> i'm going to yield now to mr. himes. >> thank you, mr. schiff. i note that we're going through the 90-minute mark in this hearing, so let me step back a second and just review the topics, because there's a lot on the table, and i think my friends on the republican side will get no argument from this side on the importance of investigating, prosecuting leaks. leaks are a threat to our national security, whether they're perpetrated by edward snowden, whether perpetrated by
people outside the white house, or perhaps as we have seen in the last 60 days, maybe from people inside the white house. but mr. comey, if i can use your phrase, intense public interest, there is intense public interest in the fact that our new president will attack anyone and everyone. he will attack the cast of "hamilton," he will attack chuck schumer, our allies, mexico, australia, germany, he will attack the intelligence community which you lead, associating you with mccarthyism and with nazism. but there's one person and one country which is immune, which is inoculated from any form of presidential attack, no matter what the behavior, no matter if there is a violation of the inf nuclear treaty, no matter if vladimir putin kills political opponents. the new president defends, obfuscates, does not attack. and the people around the president -- michael flynn, jeff
sessions, paul manafort have an odd connection to russia, a series of odd connections. eall campaign. i don't think our campaign people have communications with a foreign power, much less an adversary of the united states. and further, apart from these weird links, without exception, these individuals i named have misled or lied about the nature of those connections until the political pressure has gotten to a point where they have been fired or recused, in the case of the attorney general. so, i want to look briefly at one of these individuals. and director comey, i understand your constraints, but let me ask a couple of questions, regardless. paul manafort, who is roger stone's business partner and trump's former campaign manager. i want to ask a few questions about him. first, director comey, can you tell me what the foreign agents registration act is? >> sure. not in an expert way, but it's a statute that requires people who are acting as agents of a
non-u.s. government to register with the united states. >> right. so, the national security division of the department of justice writes -- this is their manual -- the purpose of fara is to ensure that the u.s. government and people of the united states are informed of the source of information and the identity of persons attempting to influence u.s. public opinion, policy, and laws, unquote. would you agree that guarding against foreign espionage or foreign influence measures falls under this heading? >> yes. >> in general, is willful violation or failure to register pursuant to this law in some circumstances a crime? >> i believe it is. i'm not an expert on fara, but i believe it is. >> and it could certainly lead to counterintelligence concerns, right? >> yes. >> paul manafort, as reported in "the new york times" and other outlets, and his deputy, rick gates, ran a campaign in
washington to lobby government officials and push positive press conference of pro russian ukrainian officials. paul manafort began officially reporting for former ukrainian president jan nuke vich as far back as 2007. it was only discovered by ukraine's new anticorruption bureau which found secret ledgers in kiev indicating almost $13 million in undisclosed cash payments from ukrainian government coffers to paul manafort for lobbying done between 2007 and 2012 for mr. jankovic. mr. comey, did paul manafort ever register as a foreign agent under fara? >> that's not something i can comment on. >> whether he registered or not is not something that you can comment on. >> no. >> okay. paul manafort was, however, donald trump's campaign manager in july of 2016, correct? >> i really don't want to get
into answering questions about any individual u.s. person. it's obvious from the public record, but i don't want to start down the road about answering questions about somebody. >> okay. well, i think the facts would show that he never did register. but as the ranking member pointed out, it perhaps should come as no surprise that the republican platform, which was drafted at the republican convention in july of 2016, underwent a pretty significant change with respect to the american response to russia's illegal invasion of ukraine and their aggression in that country. it appears from our standpoint that we had perhaps somebody who should have registered under fara pulling the strings there. there's more, though, and i don't know how much you'll be able to comment on this, but i just want to explore for a second the nature of the russian government. because oftentimes, the question becomes, was there contact with russian officials? and i want to read you a brief
quote from a book on putin's government. this is by professor karen diweesha, who wrote "instead of seeing russian politics as a democratic system being pulled down by history, accidental autocrats, popular inertia, bureaucratic independence or poor western advice, i conclude that from the beginning, putin and his circle sought to create an authoritarian regime ruled by a close-knit cabaal who used democracy for decoration rather than direction." mr. comey, is it fair to say that the line that exists in the united states between government officers and government officials is blurred in russia, that there may be oligarchs or other individuals who on the surface appear to be private citizens but who have connections to this close-knit cabaal, who might be agents of influence or might be doing the kremlin's bidding in contact with others? >> 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. >> is it generally true that there is a category of russian oligarchs that are likely part of this close-knit cabaal? >> in a general sense. >> and if they go way back with vladimir putin, do the chances increase that they might be connected with the kgb, as asserted by professor diweesha? >> longevity of the association can be a consideration. >> and the kgb was the russian intelligence service under the soviet union, right? >> correct. >> and the ukraine was part of the soviet union. >> correct. >> right. i'll just observe renat, a steel and iron ore oligarch is the richest man in ukraine and strong putin ally. he reportedly recommended paul manafort to jankovic. mr. comey, last set of questions for 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 raise this with you because the story is told of paul manafort acting on behalf of ukraine's former justice minister, olexander lavranovich, who was with the previous russian regime, who was involved in jailing the former prime minister, tymoshenko, who was the main political rival of the kremlin-backed president victor jankovic, who manafort advised until he was deposed in 2014. tymoshenko was released from jail at the same time that jankovic was ousted. many saw her sentencing as political motivated by the pro-russian government. in response to the deterioration in the international climate, ukrainian prosecutors say manafort drafted a public
relations strategy that included hiring an american law firm to review the tymoshenko case and confirm the legal basis. it goes on to talk about the transfer of over $1 million, potentially illegally from ukrainian coffers to scadanarks. and the reason i bring this up with you, because the story 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 for assistance under the mla treaty in securing the assistance of paul manafort as part of this anticorruption 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? >> that's not something i can comment on. i can say generally we have a very strong relationship in cooperation in the criminal and national security areas with our ukrainian partners, but i can't talk about the particular matter. >> the story says that the doj confirmed that there have been requests for assistance on this matter. you can't go as far as confirming that, in fact, there have been these requests made? >> if they've done that, i would need them to do it again. i can't comment on it. >> okay. well, i appreciate that, and with that, i will yield back the remainder of my time to the ranking member. >> and i yield to terri sewell. >> thank you, mr. ranking member. my questions this morning really involve around the resignation of the former national security adviser, michael flynn. director comey, much has been made about russia's historical interference with political elections around the world, meant to cause discord and
disunity, especially in western alliances. does the fbi generally assume that russian ambassadors to the united states, like ambassador kislyak, or at least overtly collecting intelligence on influential americans, especially political leaders? >> ms. sewell, that's not something i can answer in an open setting. >> am i right that in the russian playbook dprks th-- than the russian playbook to use diplomats and intelligence people and russian intelligence officers, whether declared or not, to collect intelligence on influential americans for the purpose of affecting u.s. policy? >> i can answer as a general matter, nation states that are adversaries of the united states use traditional intelligence officers, sometimes use intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover, use people we call co-optees,
students, academics, business people. all manners can be used in an intelligence-gathering operation, but i'm not going to talk about the particular. >> would someone like ambassador kislyak play that type of role for russia? >> i can't say here. >> the declassified january intelligence community assessment report that your agency helped to draft, the report entitled "assessing russian activities and intentions in the recent u.s. elections," specifically states that, "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." 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? >> 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. >> that's right. >> yes, yes. >> and would you expect that agent to report that meeting? >> yes. >> admiral rogers, a similar question. 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? >> disclosures of interactions with foreign governments is a requirement for all our employees, include myself, for example. >> 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 adviser 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? >> ms. sewell, i'll let mike rogers take it next, but i don't -- >> -- they'll be an investigation into trump associates, possible, and president trump and anyone around the campaign, in 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? >> people bring us information about what they think is improper, unlawful activity of any kind, we will evaluate it, not just in this folks send us stuff all the time. they should keep doing that. >> do you think that you would not get information on hillary clinton and try to get to people that are around that campaign or the clinton foundation? >> i'm not prepared to comment about the particular campaigns but russians in general are always trying to understand who the future leaders might be and what levers of influence there might be on them. >> i hope that 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. >> of course we would.
>> thanks for being here. admiral rogers, you mentioned standards earlier in the conversation. are those the same for all intelligence analysts across the various agencies? >> there's a broad sense of standards for all of us and then specific issues associated, for example, for a particular authority that you're using to collect the information in the first place. >> so same thing with your agency? your analyst would have similar type of standards? >> 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 trade craft provisions. >> i'm a cpa. we have generally accepted accountab accounting standards. are those same standards promulgated and analysts have a test that they know those standards? >> i think the specifics are classified. i could take that one for the record, sir.
>> when the ic attributes a hacking to a particular actor, you do that generally through forensic evidence. when it comes to trying to determine intent of foreign leaders, can you walk us how the nsa does that or the fbi does that? >> we assess the range of information that we've collected in an attempt to generate understanding as to not only what has occurred but part of the intelligence profession trying to understand what was the intent. we'll use the range of information we have able to us while we're primarily a single source organization, it's one reason why organizations like cia, defense intelligence agency which take multiple sources try to put together a complete picture. we're just one component of a broader effort. >> director comey, anything different than that? >> it's putting together a puzzle. from forensics alone you can get an indication of what they're trying to accomplish. other times it requires human
sources and additional signals intelligence to give you that sense. >> so both of you agree that it's rarely a precise art or a precise science of determining intent of any foreign leader? >> all of intelligence work requires judgment. that's at the center of it. >> i will say in some cases it's a much clearer case than in others. >> depends on sources you have inside a particular foreign leaders shop? >> not going to get into specifics. >> in general. if you had somebody whose next door neighbor -- never mind. pivoting to january 6th intelligence community assessment. both of your agencies agree with the assessment that russians goal was to undermine the public faith in democratic process? >> yes. >> same assessment said russians goal was to denigrate secretary clinton and harm her presidency
and putin wanted to discredit secretary clinton because he publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in 2011 and 2012. do you both agree with that assessment? skbrrks y >> yes. >> and president putin wanted to increase candidate trump's possibility of being elected. do you have a lower confidence level? >> i won't get into specifics 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. >> all right. to be clear, we all agreed with that judgment. >> but you really agreed and he almost agreed.
>> i have a term of art. >> judge comey, in terms of laying out those three assessments and whether or not the ic was consist ebent acrosse entire campaign, can we walk down that path? as of early december of '16, did the fbi assess that the active measures were to undermine the faith in democratic process. had you come to that conclusion by early december? >> december of last year. i think we were at that point, yes. >> active measures conducted against secretary clinton to denigrate her and hurt her campaign and also undermine her presidency? >> correct. >> 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? >> correct. they wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him, i think all three we were confident in at least as early as december. >> okay. the paragraph that has me concerned there in terms of just the timing of when all that occurred because i'm not sure if we went back and got that exact same january assessment six months earlier it would have looked the same because you say when we further assess putin and russian government developed a clear preference for president-elect trump. any idea when that clear preference analysis, when did that get into the lexicon when you talk back and forth between yourselves on a classified basis? >> i don't know for sure. i think that was a fairly easy judgment for the community. putin hated secretary clinton so
much that flip side of that coin was he had a clearly preference for the person running against the person he hated so much. >> that may work on saturday afternoon when my wife's red raiders are playing the texas longhorns. the logic is that because he really didn't like candidate clinton, that he automatically liked trump. that assessment is based on what? it's based on more than that. part of is -- we're not going to get into details but part is logic. wherever red raiders are playing, you want red raiders to win. by definition you want their opponent to lose. >> i know. this says you wanted her to lose and him to two-person event. >> when did you decide you wanted him to win?
>> logically when he wanted her to lose. >> i'm not talking about putin. i got that. when in this -- let me finish up. so you go through that sentence about clear preference for donald trump and we don't know 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 focused on undermining her presidency. so then the next sentence says russian government aspired to help president-elect trump's election chances. >> the assessment of the intelligence community was as the summer went on and polls showed that secretary clinton was going to win, the russians sort of gave up and simply focussed on trying to undermine her. you know red raiders aren't going to win so you hope other key people get hurt so they're
not a tough opponent down the road. >> you believe the fbi was consistent early on that was the case. they assessed they wanted trump to win it and working to have him win and her lose? >> our analysts had a view that i don't believe changed from late fall through to the report on january 6th that it had those three elements. >> on december 9th, well in advance of the january 6th deal, "the washington post" put out an article. they concluded that russia intervened in the '16 election to help donald trump win the presidency rather than undermine the confidence in the electoral system. they don't mention ms. clinton at all. it says to help trump get
elected, the u.s. official briefed by intelligence presentation to u.s. senators said that's the consensus view. how much -- this is written by a guy named adam and greg. did they help draft the july 6th argument for the intel community? >> i'm sorry? >> did those writers from "the washington post" help you write the january 6th assessment? >> no, they did not. >> i wonder how they got almost the exact language? >> i don't know. this is the peril i trying to comment on newspaper articles that purport to report classified information. i can't say about them. they're often wrong. >> you mentioned earlier in one of our hearings that when anybody uses the i can't talk because i'm bound by position of anonymity, that is code for breaking the law, generally, right? when someone says i'm talking to a