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tv   MSNBC Live  MSNBC  May 3, 2017 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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the candidate herself talked about it. october of 2015, we confirmed it existed and then said not another word, not a peep about it until we were finished. >> at the most critical time possible, a couple weeks before the election. and i think there are other things involved in that election. i'll grant that. but there's no question that that had a great effect. historians can debate what kind of an effect it was. but you did do it. the -- in october, the fbi was investigating the trump campaign's connection to russia. you seaid in the house you were reviewing additional e-mails that could be relevant to this. both investigations were open but you still only commented on one. >> i commented, as i explained earlier, on october 28th in a letter that i sent to the chair and rankings of the oversight
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committees that we were taking additional steps in the clinton e-mail investigation because i had testified under oath repeatedly that we were done, that we were finished there. with respect to the russia investigation, we treated it like we did with the clinton investigation. we didn't say a word about it until months into it, and then the only thing we've confirmed so far about this is same thing with the clinton investigation, that we are investigating. i would expect, we're not going to say another peep about it until we're done. i don't know what will be said when we're done, but that's the way we handled the clinton investigation, as well. >> let me ask you this, during your investigation into hillary clinton's e-mails, a number of surrogates, like rudy giuliani, claimed to have a pipeline to the fbi. he boasted that, and i quote, numerous agents talk to him all the time, regarding the investigation. he even said -- insinuated he had advanced warning about the e-mails described in your october letter. former fbi agent made similar
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claims. now, either they're lying or there is a serious problem within the bureau. anybody in the fbi during this 2016 campaign have contact with rudy giuliani about the clinton investigation? >> i don't know yet. but if i find out that people were leaking information about our investigation, whether to reporters or private party, there will be severe consequences sbl dconsequence s. >> did you know anything from jim? >> same answer, i don't know yet. >> anything from former agents? >> i don't know yet. it is a matter that i'm very, very interested? >> you are looking into it? >> correct. >> once you found that answer, will you provide it to us? >> i'll provide it to the committee in some form. i don't know whether i'd say it publicly, but i'd find some way to let you know.
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>> now, there are reports a number of the senior officials in the trump campaign/administration are connected to the russia investigation. the attorney general was forced to recuse himself. many members of this committee have urged the deputy attorney general, and he has that authority, to appoint a special council to protect the independence of the investigation. i recall, and i was here in december 2003, shortly after you were confirmed of deputy attorney general, the then-attorney general recused himself into the investigation into the leak. you appointed a special council. i believe you appointed patrick fitzgerald. what led you to that decision? >> in that particular investigation, my judgment was that the appearance of fairness and independence required that it be removed from the political
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chain of command within the department of justice. as you'll recall, it seems like a lifetime ago, but that involved the conduct of people who were senior level people in the white house. my judgment was that even i, as a independent-minded person, was a government appointee and i'd give it to a career man, like fitzgerald. >> i voted for the attorney general's confirmation, but shouldn't he be not the one to be investigating campaign contacts when his boss, the attorney general, was a central figure in the campaign? >> that's a judgment he'll have to make. he is, as i hoped i was as deputy attorney general, a very independent-minded, career-oriented person. it'd be premature for me to comment on that. >> the past weekend, president trump again said the hacking of the dnc and other efforts to influence the election could have been china, could have been a lot of different groups.
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is that contrary to what the intelligence community has said? >> the intelligence community with high confidence concluded it was russia. in many circumstances, it's hard to do attribution of a hack. sometimes, the intelligence is there. we have high confidence that the north koreans hacked sony. we have high confidence that the russians did the hacking of the dnc and the other organizations. >> i have a lot of other questions but before it sounds totally negative, i want to praise the response of the fbi in south burlington, vermont. we had had anonymous e-mails coming in, threatening serious action against students in the high school. cyber threats, including detailed death threats, multiple lockdowns. the fbi worked closely with the
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college's digital investigation, which you visited a couple years ago. it was a textbook example of collaboration between state, local and federal authorities, and i want to thank all those. turned out to be a very disturbed young man who was doing it. you only have to turn on the tv to see what happens in different parts of the country. we were worried in vermont. thank you for your help. >> thank you, senator. >> senator graham would be next. we'll >> good morning, director comey. i'm disappointed to see that former secretary of state hillary clinton was in the news yesterday, essentially blaming you and blaming everything, other than herself, for her loss on november the 8th. i find it ironic because you're not the one who made the decision to handle classified information on a private e-mail server. you're not the one who decided
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to have a private meeting with secretary clinton's husband in the middle of the justice department's ongoing investigation into secretary clinton's server. i use the word investigation here because according to a recent piece in the "new york times," you were forbidden from using the word investigation and were instead told to refer to the investigation, which it was, as a matter. of course, it was the former attorney general, loretta lynch, who up until that meeting with president clinton, was the person responsible for making the decision whether to convene a grand jury involving the allegations against secretary clinton. it was former attorney general loretta lynch who apparently forbad you from using the word investigation. indeed, the "new york times" story is true, a democratic operative expressed confidence that the former attorney general would keep that investigation from going very far. i think you were given an impossible choice to make, and
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you did the best you could in light of the situation that you were presented with. and it strikes me as somewhat sad for people here and elsewhere to condemn you for notifying congress shortly before the election that you'd uncovered even more e-mails related to the investigation, including classified e-mails. again, because secretary clinton made the decision to use a private e-mail server. i think it is important to remind folks you were not the one who decided to do business this way and keep state department e-mails on a computer of someone suspected of child pornography. again, i believe you were placed in an incredibly difficult position. you did the best you could. you may recall i was one of those who felt like, given the nature of the investigation and the concerns, that a special council should have been appointed to conduct the investigation. but, of course, attorney general lynch and the obama administration opposed that
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effort. so i just wanted to express to you my disappointment that this continued seeking of a reason, any reason other than the flawed campaign and the candidate herself, for secretary clinton losing the presidential election. if i can turn to a couple of other substantive items here, you mentioned 702 of fisa and the reauthorization. i believe you've referred to this as the crown jewels of the fbi and of counterterrorism investigations. could you explain why this provides such a unique tool and why you regard it as literally crown jewels of the fbi? >> thank you, senator. the -- every time i talk about this publicly i wince a little bit. i don't want bad people around the world to focus on this too much. but really bad people around the world, because of the genius of american innovation, use our
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products and infrastructure for their e-mails, for their communications. what 702 allows us to do is quickly target terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, proliferators, spies, cyberhackers, non-americans who are using our infrastructure to communicate, to target them quickly and collect information on them. and it is vital to all parts of the intelligence community because of its agility, its speed and its effectiveness. again, in an open setting, we can't explain what you know from classified briefings about what a difference this makes, but again, because america is the mother of all this innovation, they use a lot of our equipment, networks to communicate with each other. if we were ever required to establish the normal warrant process for the non-americans who aren't in our country, just because the photons their using to plan attacks cross our country's lands, we'd be tying ourselves in knots for reasons that make no sense at all, and the courts have said are
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unnecessary under the fourth amendment. so this is a tool. we talked a lot last year about the metadata database. it does not compare in importance to 702. we can't lose 702. >> i agree. it is a little bit difficult to talk about things that do involve classified matters in public, but i think the public needs to know that there are multiple oversight layers, including the fisa court, congressional oversight, internal oversight within the fbi and intelligence community that protects americans from -- under their privacy rights, while targeting terrorists and people who are trying to kill us. i want to talk about the electronic transactional records, something you and i discussed before, as well. the fbi can use national security letters, i believe, to get financial information and telephone numbers now in the
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conduct of a terrorist investigation, but because of a typo in the law, the fbi has not been allowed access to internet metadata in national security cases, to the extent that is necessary. can you talk to us about the importance of that particular fix, the electronic communications transactional records fix? >> thank you so much, senator. this seems like a boring deal. this makes a big impact on our work. here's why. in our counterterrorism cases and our counterintelligence cases, we can issue with all kinds of layer of approval in the fbi, a national security letter to find out the subscriber to a particular telephone number and find out what numbers that telephone number was in contact with. not the content of the communications, but just the connection. again, because of what i believe is a typo in the law, and if i'm wrong, congress will tell me they intended this, the companies that provide the same services but on the internet
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resist and say, we don't have the statutory authority to serve an nsl, national security letter, to find out the subscriber to a particular e-mail handle or what addresses were in contact with what addresses. though we could do the same with telephone communications. i don't think congress intended the distinction. in our most important investigations, it requires us, if we want to find out the subscriber to a particular e-mail handle, to go and get an order from a federal judge in washington as part of the fisa court, an incredibly long and difficult process, and i'm worried about that slowing us down but also about a disincentive for investigators to do it at all. if you're working a case in san antonio or seattle, you're moving very, very quickly. if i have to go to get subscriber information, for heaven's sakes, on an e-mail address to a federal court in washington, i'm probably going to try to find another way around it. if that's what congress want, sure, we'll follow the law. i don't think it was intended.
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i would hope that congress will fix what i believe is a typo. >> thank you, director. i ha i have other questions for the record. thank you. >> we are going over the vote now. i'd also like to have both democrat and republicans notify me if they want a second round, so i can get an inventory of that. senator? >> thank you. welcome back, director comey. as you are well aware, russia is actively working to undermine our democracy and hurt american businesses at the same time. now more than ever, americans are looking to congress for leadership, and we must be a united front. i've appreciated some of the members of this committee on the republican side who have spoken out about this. we must be united as we seek information from the administration. last month during a hearing at
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the house intelligence committee, you confirmed that the fbi is investigating the russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. including any links between the trump campaign and the russian government. i know that you cannot discuss that ongoing investigation, but just one question to clarify. will you commit to ensuring that the relevant congressional committees receive a full and timely briefing on that investigation's findings? >> in general, i can, senator. i need department of justice approval to brief on particular people that we're investigating. we've briefed the chairs and the rankings, including of this committee, on who we have cases open on and exactly what we're doing and how we're using sources of information. i don't know whether the department will approve that for the entire intelligence committees. i'll lean as far forward as i can. >> because attorney general sessions is recused from that, and now rosenstein is approved, do you go to him to get the
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approval? >> yes. i've already briefed him. i think his first day in office, i briefed him on where we are. so he would be the person to make that decision. >> thank you. in your testimony, you note that the justice department brought charges against russian spies and criminal hackers in connection with a 2014 yahoo! cyber attack in february. an example of a cyber attack in our economy. in december of 2016, the fbi and the department of homeland security released a 13-page report providing technical details about how federal investigators linked russia to the hacks against u.s. political organizations. does russia use the same military and civilian tools it used to hack our political organizations in order to do things like hack into u.s. companies, steal identities and the credit card information of americans on the black market? and how is the fbi working to fight against hackers supported by foreign governments like russia? >> the answer is yes.
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both their government organizations and then they have a relationship that's often difficult to define with criminals. the yahoo! hack is an example of that. you had some of russia's greatest criminal hackers and intelligence agency hackers working together. so the answer is, yes. and what we're doing is trying to see if we can impose costs on that behavior in a lot of ways. including one i mentioned in the opening, which is locking up people. if we can get them outside of russia. russia isn't great about cooperating with us when there are criminals inside their borders. all of them like to travel. so if they travel, grabbing them and locking -- putting handcuffs on them to send a message that that's not a freebie. >> in your testimony, you also discuss the threat that transnational accordiorganized poses to our safety. the kremlin sews instability across the world. i heard concerns firsthand when senator graham, mccain and i
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were in the ball kitics. the treasury department noted a significant rise in the use of shell companies in real estate transactions because foreign buyers use them as a bay to hide their identity and find a safe haven for their money in the u.s. in fact, nearly half of all homes in the u.s. worth at least $5 million are purchased using shell companies. does the anonymity associated with the shell companies to buy real estate hurt the fbi's ability to fight organized crime? do you support efforts by the treasury department to use its existing authority to require more transparency in the transactions? >> yes and yes. >> very good. i think this is a huge problem. when you hear that over $5 million homes, half of them purchased by shell companies, that is a major problem.
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in march, this committee's subcommittee on crime and t terrorism held its first hearing. i thank senator graham and senator whitehouse for that. ken agreed this is a very important issue. as the ranking member of the rules committee, i'm particularly concerned about ensuring our elections are safe from foreign inter feerns. -- interference. i led a group of calling an account for the election commissions department to address russian cyber security threats in the 2016 election. i'm also working on legislation in this area. can you discuss how the fbi has coordinated with the election assistance commission, department of homeland security and state and local election officials to help protect the integrity o our election process? >> we've shared the tools, tactics and techniques we see
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hackers, especially from the 2016 election season, using to attack voter registration data paces a s bases and try to engage in other hacks. we pushed it out to the election assistance commission to harden their networks. that's one of the most important things to do, equip them with the information to make their systems tighter. >> very good. as you know, we have different equipment all over this country. there's some advantage to that, i think. it is good when we have paper ballot backups, of course, but we have to be prepared for this. this certainly isn't about one political party or one candidate. the last time you came before the committee in december 2015, just one week after the san bernardino attacks, since then, as was noted by the chair, we've seen other attacks in our country. we had a tragedy in a shopping mall in st. cloud, minnesota. ten wounded at a shopping mall.
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thankfully, a brave, off duty cop was there. he was able to stop further damage from being done. and i would also like to thank you and the fbi for your investigation. having talked to the chief up there, senator franken and i were briefed by him, as well as congressman emmer, right after this attack. the local police department is a mid-size department, and they had to do a lot with working with the community. they have a significant somali community there, that they're proud to have there. they were working with them. they're working with the community. they're helping. but the fbi really stood in and did the investigation. i guess i want to thank you for that and just end with one question. it's been reported that isis has encouraged lone wolf attacks, like what we saw in orlando. it is murkier, the facts in st. cloud. what challenges do these attacks present for law enforcement, and what is the fbi doing to prevent
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these tragedies? >> thank you, senator. the central challenge is not just finding needles in a nationwide hay stack but try to figure out which pieces of hay might become a needle. which of the troubled young people, or sometimes older people, are consuming poisonous propaganda? moving towards thinking of act of violence like a stabbing at a shopping mall is some way to achieve meaning in their lives. and a huge part of it is building relationships with the communities you mentioned. those folks do not want anyone committing violence in the name of their faith, so they have the same incentives we do, in making sure they see us that way and we see them that way, is at the heart of our response. we're not going to see some troubled kid going sideways and thinking he should stab people anywhere near as easily as the people around that kid are going to see it. getting in a position where they feel comfortable telling us or local law enforcement is at the heart of our ability to find the
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needles, evaluate the hay and stop this. >> appreciate it. thank you. >> senator graham. >> thank you. director comey, could you pass on to your agents and all support personnel how much we appreciate their efforts to defend the country? we're going to set a record for questions asked and answered in 6:54 if i can. do you agree with me that if see quest trags goes back into effect would be devastating to the fbi? >> yes. >> do you agree that isil loses the caliphate, these people will go out throughout the world and become terrorist agents and the threat of terrorism to the homeland is going to get greater over time, not smaller? >> yes. it'll diminish in that their power to put out their media to the troubled people in the country will decrease, but the hardened killers plowing out of the caliphate will be a problem. >> from a funding point of view, terrorism is probably going to
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get worse? >> i think that's fair to say. >> did you ever talk to sally yates about her concerns about general flynn being compromised? >> i did. i don't know whether i can talk about it in this forum. the answer is yes. >> but she had concerns about general flynn, and she expressed those concerns to you. >> correct. >> okay. we'll talk about that later. do you stand by your house testimony march 20th that there was no surveillance of the trump campaign that you're aware of. >> correct. >> you would know about it if there were, correct? >> i think so, yeah. >> carter page, was there a fisa warrant issued regarding carter page's activity with the russians? >> i can't answer that here. >> did you consider carter page a agent of the campaign? >> same answer. can't answer that here. >> okay. do you stand by your testimony that there is an active investigation counterintelligence investigation regarding trump
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campaign individuals and the russian government, as to whether or not they collaborated? >> to see if there was coordination between the russian effort it shall. >> right. is that going on? >> yes. >> you stand by the statements but won't tell me about carter page? >> not here, i won't. >> okay. the chairman mentioned that fusion -- are you familiar with fusion? >> i know the name. >> okay. are they part of the russian intelligence apparatus? >> i can't say. >> okay. do you agree with me that if fusion was involved in preparing against donald trump, that would be interfering in our election by the russians? >> i don't want to say. >> okay. do you agree with me that anthony weiner of 2016 should not have access to classified information? >> yes, that's a fair statement. >> would you agree with me if that's not illegal, we've got really bad laws? >> well, if he had --
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>> well, he got it somehow. >> it would be illegal if he didn't have appropriate clearance. >> do you agree with me he didn't have appropriate clearance? >> he did? >> if he did have appropriate clearance, that'd even be worse. >> i don't believe at the time we found that on his laptop that he had any type of clearance. >> i agree. for him to get it should be a crime. somebody should be prosecuted for letting anthony weiner have access to classified information. does that make general sense? >> it could be a crime. depend upon what the people -- >> do you agree it should be, anybody that lets anthony weiner have classified information probably should be prosecuted? if the laws don't cover it, they probably should. >> there is no anthony weiner statute, but -- >> maybe we need one. >> it's already a statute. >> i wonder how you can get classified information and not be a crime by somebody. unmasking, are you familiar with that. >> i'm familiar with the term. >> has the bureau ever requested unmasking of an american citizen caught up in incidental
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collection? >> oh, yes. i did it this week in connection with an intelligence report. >> before i re-authorize 702, and i'm a hawkish guy, i want to know how unmasking works. are you aware of any requests by the white house, anybody in the obama administration, to unmask american citizens caught up in incidental surveillances in 2015 or 2016? >> i'm not aware of any request to the fbi. >> would you know? who would they make the request to? >> well, they can make it to anyone in the fbi who was -- >> what about the nsa, wouldn't you make it to the nsa? >> sure. if it is an nsa report. i've read in the media and heard about nsa reports. i don't know -- >> when you ask for unmasking, do you go to the nsa? >> i got a report this week that said, u.s. company number one. >> right. >> it had been removed. i said, i believe i need to know the name of that company. >> who do you ask?
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>> my intelligence briefer, who works for the pdb staff. i'd like to know that. she goes and asks the owner of the information. >> which would be the nsa? >> in this case, i think it was cia information, saying the director -- >> does the owner of the information record requests for unmasking? >> i believe the nsa does. i don't know about csa. >> there should be a record. somewhere in our government for a request to unmask, regardless of who made the request. >> i think that's right. >> is it fair to say that very few people can make requests for unmasking? i mean, i can be the go and make that request as a senator, can i? >> sure. it is a fairly small group. the consumers, which i am, of the small set of -- >> is the national security counsel in the group? >> i think the advisers certainly can. >> when it comes to russia, is it fair to say that the government of russia actively provides safe haven to cyber
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criminals? >> yes. >> is it fair to say that the russian government is still involved in american politics? >> yes. >> is it fair to say that we need to stop them from doing this? >> yes, fair to say. >> do you agree with me, the only way they're going to stop is for them to pay a price for interfering in our political process? >> i think that's a fair statement. >> yeah, okay. so what we're doing today is not working. they're still doing it. they're doing it all over the world, aren't they? >> yes. >> so what kind of a threat do you believe russia presents to our democratic process, given what you know about russia's behavior of late? >> certainly, my view, the greatest threat of any nation on earth, given their intention is and their capability. >> do you agree that they did not change the actual vote tally, but one day, they might? >> i agree -- i very much -- we found no indication of any change in vote tallies. there was efforts aimed at voter registration system.
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part of the united states, the beauty of the system is it is a bit of a hairball. all different systems and -- >> have they done this in other countries, where they tampered with a vote? >> my understanding is they have attempted in other countries. >> there's no reason they won't attempt here if we don't stop them over time? >> i think it's fair. >> thank you. >> thank you, caremhairman. welcome back, director comey. what is the policy of the director and the bureau regarding the release of derogatory, investigative information about an uncharged subject? >> the general practice is we don't talk about completed investigations that didn't result in charges, as a general matter. >> and what is the policy regarding release of derogatory information about charged subjects beyond the derogatory investigative information disclosed either in the charging document or in further court proceedings? >> i think you summarized it.
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the gist of the policy is you don't want to do anything outside of the charging documents of the public record that might prejudice the proceeding. >> one of the reasons, if you had a police chief say, we have investigated the contract between the mayor and the contractor and we decided there were no misdieeeds, but the may was sleeping with the driver, just wanted you to know, that'd be a blow to the function and probably tend to diminish support for the prosecutor function, if played by those rules, correct? >> that's fair. that's why the policy exists. >> yup. with respect to oversight questions, let's hypothesize that an investigation exists and that the public knows about it, which could happen for legitimate reasons. what questions are appropriate for senators to ask about that investigation in their oversight capacity? >> they can ask anything they want. >> what questions are
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appropriate for you to answer? >> very few while a matter is pending and -- >> we know it is pending. is it appropriate for you to tell us whether it is adequately resourced and asked, are there agents assigned or is it in a bottom drawer? >> right. who is working on it, that sort of thing. >> are there benchmarks in certain types of cases where a department approvals are required or the involvement of certain department official it is required to see whether those steps have been taken? >> i'm not sure i'm following the question. i'm sorry. >> let's say you have a investigation that has to go through procedures in the department to allow a reco investigation to proceed. if those haven't been implicated, it'd send a signal that maybe not much effort has been dedicated to it. would that be a legitimate question to ask? again, you'd have to know it is a reco investigation.
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assuming we knew, would the staging elements as an investigation moves forward in the internal department approvals be appropriate for us to ask about and you to answer about? >> that's a harder question. i'm not sure it would be appropriate to answer it because it would give away what we were looking at potentially. >> would it be appropriate to ask if -- whether any witnesses have been interviewed or whether any documents have been obtained pursuant to the investigation? >> that's also a harder one. i'd be reluctant to answer questions like that because it is a slippery slope, to giving away information about exactly what you're doing. >> if we're concerned the investigation gets put on the shelf and not taken seriously, the fact that no witnesses have been called and no documents have been sought would be pretty relevant and wouldn't reveal anything other than a lack of attention by the bureau, correct? >> it could. but we're very careful about relier revealing how we might use a grand jury, for example. if we start answering -- >> i understand that. this is a separate thing. >> it's a harder call.
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>> well, we'll pursue it. >> okay. >> what is the department's -- or the bureau's policy regarding witnesses who are cooperating in an investigation and have ongoing compliance problem? let's say they haven't paid their taxes for the last year. is it the policy of the department of the bureau that they should get those cooperating witnesses to clean up their act so their non-compliance isn't an issue later on in the case? >> yes. i don't know whether it is a written -- i know i should know this -- i can't remember whether it is a written policy. it is certainly -- >> certainly long-standing practice. exactly. when are tax returns useful in incest gavestigating a criminal offense? >> useful in showing unreported income, motive. if someone hides something that should otherwise be on a tax return indicates they might know it is criminal activity. >> not uncommon to seek and use
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tax returns in a criminal investigation? >> not uncommon. it is very difficult process, as it should be, especially i complex financial cases. it's a relately common tool. >> the hearing that senator fram a -- graham and i held with respect to russia's infiltration and influence in the last election raised the issue of russia intervening with business leaders in a country, engaging them in bribery or other highly favorable business deals with a view to either recruiting them as somebody who has been bribed or being able to threaten them by disclosing the illicit relationship. they're perfectly happy to blow up their own cutout but it also blows out the individual. have you seen any indication that those are russian strategies in their election influence toolbox?
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>> in general? >> in general. >> my understanding is those are tools that the russians have used over many decades. >> and lastly. the european union is moving towards requiring transparency of incorporations so that shell corporations are harder to create. that risks leaving the united states as the last big haven for shell corporations. is it true that shell corporations are often used as a device for criminal money laundering? >> yes. >> is it true that shell corporations are often used as a device for the concealment of criminally garnered funds? >> me. >> and avoid taxation? >> yes. >> what do you think the hazards are for the united states with respect to election interference of continuing to maintain a
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system in which shell corporations that you never know who is really behind them are common place? >> i suppose one risk is it makes it easier for illicit money to make its way into a political environment. >> that's not a good thing. >> i don't think it is. >> me neither. thank you very much. >> senator? >> thank you, chairman. director, thank you for being here. given the fbi's extensive responsibilities and expertise in counterintelligence investigations, how likely is it senate it systems have been targeted by foreign intelligence services? >> i would estimate it is a certainty. >> and inside the ic, who would talk about that problem, and who at the senate would they inform? >> well, i don't want to talk about particular matters, but often, it is the fbi alerting a u.s. government institution or private sector. dhs might come across it. or other parts of the intelligence community, especially nsa.
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>> when we talk about things like cyber investigations right now, so often on cable tv, it's a shirts and skins exercise. without asking you to comment about anything retrospective of 2016, is it likely in 2018 and beyond, you'll see more targeting of u.s. public discourse and elections? >> i do. i think one of the lessons that typically the russians may have drawn from this is this works. as i said a month or so ago, i expect to see them back in 2018, especially in 2020. >> you regularly testify, and correct me if i've misheard you, but i think you've regularly testified that you don't think the bureau is short of resources. you don't come before us and make big increased appropriations requests. yet, those of us who are very concerned about cyber look at the u.s. government writ large and think we're not at all prepared for the future. can you tell us what the fbi is doing to prepare for that 2018 and 2020 circumstance that you
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envision? >> without giving too much detail, we have an enormous part of the fbi in our counterintelligence division and the cyber division that focuses on just that threat, in making sure that we do everything we can to understand how the bad guys might come at us. as i talked about earlier, to equip the civilian agencies responsible for hardening our infrastructure, with all the information we have about how they'll come at us. >> if you had in your national security domain increased resources, how would you spend another marginal dollar beyond what you expect to receive now? >> i'd probably have a tie between investing more in upgrading our systems, to make sure we're keeping pace with the bar of excellence, and probably to hire additional cyber agents and analysts. >> what kind of increased funding request would you make? >> i wouldn't make any sitting here. >> i'd like to talk a little bit about wikileaks. in january, the fbi contributed
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to an ic assessment that concluded that wikileaks is a known outlet of foreign propaganda. do you stand by that assessment. >> yes. >> do you believe that wikileaks released sensitive and classified information? >> yes. >> do you believe any of wikileaks disclosures have endangered american lives or put atinterests? >> i believe both. >> help me understand why julian assange has not been charged with a crime. >> i don't want to comment on the case. i don't want to confirm whether or not there are charges pending. heapprehended because he's inside the ecuadorian embassy in london. >> i asked questions about the status of the investigation. it seemed clear individuals were polite and kind and responsive to the request, but across the ic, it seemed there wasn't deliberation about wikileaks and julian assange and this question. is the agency participating in
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dialogue about whether or not assange created crimes? >> i don't know where you got the impression but wikileaks is an important focus of our attention. >> i intentionally left almost half of my time for you to wax broadly for a minute. there is room for reasonable people to disagree about at what point and allegedly journalistic organization crosses a line to become some sort of a tool of foreign intelligence. there are americans, well-meaning, thoughtful people who think wikileaks might just be a journalistic outfit. can you explain why that is not your view? >> yeah. i want to be careful that i don't prejudice future proce proceeding. it is an important question because all of us care deeply about the first amendment and the ability of a free press to get information about our work and publish it. to my mind, it crosses a line when it moves from being about trying to educate a public and, instead, just becomes about
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intelligence porn, frankly. just pushing out information about sources and methods without regard to interest, without regard to the first amendment values that normally underlie press reporting, and simply becomes a conduit for the russians or other adversary of the united states to push out information to damage the united states. i realize regional people struggle to draw a line, but there is contact so far to the side of the line, that nothing even smells journalist about some of this conduct. >> so if you could map that continuum, there are clearly members of the ic that have, at different points in the past, leaked classified information. that is an illegal act, correct? >> correct. >> when american journalists court and solicit that information, have they violated any law by asking people in the ic to potentially leak information that is potentially classified?
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>> that conduct is not treated by the u.s. government as criminal conduct. i've been asked in other context, isn't it true that the espionage statute has no carve out for journalists? that's true. at least in my lifetime, the department of juisticejustice'ss been news gathering is not going to be investigated or prosecuted as a criminal act. that's how it is thought of. >> investigative reporter taking advantage of and celebrating the liberties that we have under the first amendment at the "washington post" or the "new york times," trying to talk to people in the ic ask get the maximum amount of information they possibly can out of them to inform the public, it is not the burden of an american journalist to discern whether or not the member of the ic is leaking information that might be classified. the journalist can legitimately seek information. it is not their job to police it. the member of the ic that leaks the information has broken a law. >> right. the obligation rests on those people who are in the government
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in possession of intelligence, classified information. it is not the journalist's burden. our focus is and should be on the leakers, not those who are obtaining it as part of legitimate news gathering. >> i want to hear this one more time. i know that the chairman has indulged me. i'm at and past time. but the american journalist who is seeking this information differs from assange and wikileaks how? >> in that there's at least a portion, and people can argue that maybe this conduct wikileaks is engaged in in the past that's closer to regular news gathering, but in my view, a huge portion of wikileaks's activities has nothing to do with legitimate news gathering, informing the public, commenting on important public controversies, but is simply about releasing classified information to damage the united states of america. and people sometimes get cynical about journalists. american journalists do not do that. they will almost always call us before they publish classified information and say, is there anything about this that will put lives in danger, that is going to jeopardize government
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people, military people or innocent civilians anywhere in the world, and work with us to accomplish their first amendment goals while safeguarding the interests. this activity i'm talking about, wikileaks, involves no considerations whatsoever. it is intelligence porn. push it out to order to damage. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator. senator franken? >> thank you, senator feinstein. good to see you, director. i'm going to pick up where i think senator whitehouse was going. are you familiar with a report called the kremlin playbook? >> no. >> okay. this is an expert report that exhaustively documents russia's past efforts to undermine european democracies. according to the report, russia is known to cultivate close ties with business and political leaders and target countries. this is stuff you acknowledged
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to senator whitehouse that you knew happened. the report explains that, quote, russia has cultivated an opaque network of patronage across the region it uses to influence and direct decision making. in other words, russia has the strategy of creating the conditions that give rise to corruption. then exploiting the corruption to its own benefit. in the intelligence communities unclassified assessment of the russian campaign to influence the american election, our nation's intelligence agencies write, quote, putin has had many positive experiences working with western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with russia. that seems to jive with your understanding of what russia has done. >> correct. >> now, in that same assessment, the fbi, the cia and the nsa all
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concluded that russia did, in fact, interfere in the 2016 election in order to, quote, help president-elect trump's election chances, when possible, by discrediting secretary clinton. the agencies concluded that the russians had a clear preference for president trump. what is your assessment of why the russian government had a clear preference for president trump. >> the intelligence community's assessment had a couple parts with respect to that. one is he wasn't hillary clinton, who putin hated and wanted to harm in any possible way. so he was her opponent. necessarily, they supported him. also, the second notion that the intelligence community assessed that putin believed he would be more able to make deals, reach agreements with someone with a business background than with someone who had grown up in more of a government environment. >> okay. well, i'm curious about just how
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closely russia followed the kremlin playbook when it melted into our democracy. specifically whether the russians had a preference for president trump because he had been ensnared in their web of patronage. that's a quote from the report. is it possible in the russians view, trump's business interests would make him more amenable to cooperating with them, quote, more disposed to deal with russia as the ic report says? >> that was not the basis for the ic's assessment. >> okay. well, it is -- i said is it possible? >> i see. >> do you want to speculate? >> possible questions are hard for me to answer. >> in order for us to know for certain whether president trump would be vulnerable to that type of exploitation, we would have
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to understand his financial situation. we'd have to know whether or not he has money tied up in russia or obligations to russian entities. do you agree? >> that you would need to understand that to evaluate that question? i don't know. >> it seems to me there is reason to believe that such connections exist. for example, the president's son, donald trump jr., told real estate developers in 2008 that, quote, russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. he said, quote, we see a lot of money pouring in from russia. this is a report on the family business. in 2013, president trump held a miss universe pageant in moscow. the pageant was financed by a russian billionaire close to putin. and president trump sold palm
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beach mansion to a russian oligarch for $95 million in 2008. that's $54 million more than he paid for it just four just four years prior. those are three financial ties that we know of and they are big ones. director comey, the russians have a riser to of using financial investments to gain leverage over influential people and then later calling in favors. we know that. we know that the russians interfered in our election and they did to benefit president trump. the intelligence agencies confirmed that. but what i want to know is why they favored president trump. and it seems to me that in order to answer that question, any investigation into whether the trump campaign or trump operation colluded with russian operatives would require a full appreciation of the president's financial dealings.
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director comey, would president trump's tax returns be material to such an investigation? >> that is not something, senator, i'm going to answer. >> does the investigation have access to president trump's tax returns? >> i'll have to give you the same answer. again, i hope people don't yoe overinterpret my answers, but about i don't want to talk about what we're looking at and how. >> director comey, we continue to learn about ties between russia and former members of the president's campaign and current senior members of his administration, jeff sessions attorney general, former campaign adviser carter page, former campaign adviser paul manafort, former campaign manager paul manafort, also chief strategist rex tillerson secretary of state, roger stone political mentor and former campaign adviser, be michael flynn former national security
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adviser, jar cured kushner whit house senior adviser and son-in-law. we don't even know if this list is exhaustive, but you i think you might see where i'm going and these connections appear against the backdrop of putin/russian interference, interference that the intelligence community has concluded was designed to favor president trump. i know i'm hitting my time, but let me ask one question. [ inaudible ] >> thank you, mr. chairman. from an investigative standpoint, is the shear number of connections unusual or significant, what about each individual's proximity to the president, is it unusual for individuals in these important roles to have so many unexpected and often undisclosed ties to a foreign power? >> i'll have to give you the same answer. that is not something that i can comment on.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, director comey. with regard to 702 reauthorization, in 2014, the privacy and civil liberties oversight board recommended that agencies develop mechanisms to limgt t limit the potential scope of accidental collection. under your leadership, what has the bureau done to comply with these recommendations? >> what we've done is make about sure that we have tightened up our training and making sure nobody with unauthorized access gets to see the kept of a 702 collection. that is probably a good way of summarizing it. a lot more beneath that, but that is the gist of it. we're collected under 702, just to make sure that nobody gets access to it who doesn't have a need to know and hasn't been trained on how to handle fisa information. >> you can briefly describe the
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process for accidental collection or minimizing those who are involved? incidental collection is the name given to if you're targeting a terrorist, let's say who is in yemen and he happens to be using an american e-mail provider to communicate, so under 702, the u.s. intelligence community can collect that terrorist communications. he's outside the united states and he's not an american. if an american contacts that terrorist, sends himle an e-ma let's imagine it's a g-mail account, his g-mail, that will incidentally connected. he's not the tash grget, but it collected as part of the lawful collection. that's what it means. and if the fooik is doibi is do2 collection, those communications to and from the terrorist would sit in our database. if we open an investigation on that person who happened to be the communicant and we search
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our systems, we will hit on that 702 collection and the investigating agent will know holy cow, there is an american in touch with that terrorist in yemen. if that agent has been trained and has access to the information, they will be able to know it. that is how our systems are designed. >> and i should say the same review that was conducted in 2014 does point out the value of the program. i certainly think and i think most of us do here see that incredible value of 702 and the need for reauthorization there. with regard to -- different topic completely. poll graph tey topic completely. poll graph tegraph testing.awar is required to undergo a polygraph. it's worth knowing that cpb experiences significantly higher failure rates around 65% than any other federal law enforcement agency. the fbi does pretty well with this. has the bureau ever conducted
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benchmarking with other federal agencies as to the process where you require a polygraph for employment? it seems that -- given fbi's success with this instrument, that you could inform some of the other agencies who are having difficulties. >> i don't know whether we have, but i'll find out. i think we have with other members of the intelligence community, but i don't know whether we've talked to cbp about our program. >> it would be helpful with regard to cbp if you could look into that. with regard to data breaches following on what senator sasse was asking, what are you you do to go protect your own systems? >> a whole lot. i don't want to talk about too much in open forum, but it is a constant worry of all of us. since i've been director, would he have stood up something called the insider threat center and i've put a senior fbi executive in charge of it
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because i want someone waking unevery morning worrying about how might we lose data, who might be penetrating us, either our systems or a human asset. and so a ton of work is going into protecting osystems. but the weakest link is always the people. you can have the greatest fire waur walls, but if your people -- we are spending time to find a rich picture of our people that is constant and doesn't depend upon five year polygraph investigations, but shows flags of an employee in real time. >> and in your opinion is congress doing enough to protect itself and our systems from outside threats? >> i don't mean this as a wise guy answer. surely not because none of us can be doing enough frankly. again, it's not just about the
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perimeter we build. it's about the security culture is inside our organizations. and i'm part of the fbi and i still don't think ours is good enough. i'm sure congress' is not good enough. >> do you know the freedom of information act allows access citizens have the right to get information from the federal government, can you talk about how the bureau promptly and fully responds to foia requests at the same time you maintain some level of security over sensitive and classified data? >> we have an enormous foye ya oig operati foia operation working 24 hours a day outside of washington, d. d.c., great people who this is their life. they know the regulations, thei work to comply with the foia deadlines. it is a huge pain, but it's an essential part of being a public institution. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, chairman grassley.
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thank you for your service and for your return in front of the senate judiciary committee. i wanted to start by asking about a letter, and i'll submit this for the record if i might, senator whitehouse and i in early august of last year sent a letter to senator cruz who was the oversight subcommittee chairman expressing our grave concern about the potential for foreign interference in our upcoming presidential election. we asked for an oversight hearing to consider whether existing federal criminal statutes and court jurisdiction were sufficient to address conduct related to the foreign entities posing a threat to our election. we didn't have that hearing. but i'd like to ask you that same question now. are existing federal criminal statutes sufficient to prosecute conduct related to foreign e entities that seek to undermine our elections. >> i think so is my answer, but someone smarter than i may have spotted something that is a gap.
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it's a question of gathering the evidence and applying it under the tools. >> in response to a question earlier you stated that you fully expect russia to continue to be engaged in efforts to influence our elections and you expect them to be back in 2018 and in 2020. what more should we be doing both to defend our election infrastructure and our future elections against continuing russian sbfrninterference and w more is the agency doing to help our allies in countries like on france and germany that have upcoming elections where there is ever reason to bleach the russians are actively interfering there, as well? >> i think two things that we can do and are doing both in the united states and with our allies is telling the people responsible for protecting the election infrastructure everything we know about how the russians and others tried to attack those systems, how they might come at it, what ip addresses they might use, what