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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 21, 2017 12:37am-1:05am EDT

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this is a special edition of "nightline," the russia investigation. tonight, fbi director james comey's extraordinary revelations confirming an ongoing investigation into the trump campaign's alleged russian ties. >> this will also include an assessment of any crimes were committed. >> denying any evidence that president obama wire tapped trump tower. >> i have no information that supports those tweets. >> all the president's men diverting attention to intelligence lieakers. will this dramatic showdown hurt america's standing on the world stage. where do we go from here? >> investigating and having proof are two different things. >> this special edition of "nightline" will be right back.
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>> announcer: this is a special edition of "nightline," the russia investigation. good evening. thank you for joining us. after months of speculation, fbi director comey testifying under oath today unloading powerful public declarations given the agency's policy not to comment on ongoing investigations. except under extraordinary circumstances. confirming today the federal investigation into the trump campaign's alleged ties to russia. so what makes this situation so unique? here is abc's david wright.
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>> reporter: tonight in kentucky, a defiant president trump. >> we are americans and the future belongs to us. >> reporter: already running for re-election in 2020. >> we will make america great again. >> reporter: on capitol hill today, lawmakers were busy pouring over the election we just had. >> honored to be here representing the people of the fbi. >> reporter: members of the house intelligence committee convening a blockbuster hearing. >> i would look to welcome our witnesses director of the fbi, jim comey, and director of the national security agency, admiral rogers. >> reporter: the nation's top cop and one of the nation's most senior spy masters there to testify about allegations that russia tried to influence the outcome. >> i have been authorized by the department of justice to confirm that the fbi as parted of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the russian
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government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. >> reporter: listen closely now. >> that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the trump campaign and the russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and russia's efforts. as with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed. >> reporter: that's huge. the fbi director disclosed an ongoing criminal investigation into whether associates of the trump campaign worked with the russian government. comey acknowledged that admission in itself is highly unusual. >> our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. but in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so. >> reporter: the same fbi director who led an on again/off again investigation into hillary
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clinton's e mail server. >> the fbi reopened their investigation -- >> into hillary clinton's e-mails. >> reporter: already a significant player himself in the 2016 campaign, his unusual role rife with controversy. >> the fbi director has no credibility. >> reporter: today the ranking democrat on the committee said comey's admission was a surprise to him. >> that was big. i have to say was not expecting him to do. i think it, it -- is positive that he did. important that the country know not only is the congress taking this seriously, but the fbi is as well. >> reporter: the white house was quick to push back. >> investigating it and having proof of it are two different things. i think it is fine to look into it. end of the day they will come to the same conclusion everybody has had. >> reporter: the white house is irritated with fbi director comey. i asked sean spicer. does the president still have complete confidence in fbi director comey? >> there is no reason to believe he doesn't at this time. >> hardly a ringing endorsement,
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today, adam schiff, offered a time line. >> months -- >> reporter: seeking to connect the dots between various trump associates and known instances of russian interference. >> roger stone, a long-time trump political adviser, self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech he communicated with assange and more documents coming including october surprise. the congressman offered a parade of former trump operatives including carter page, paul manifort and roger stone all but accusing them of colluding with russia. coincidence that jeff sessions failed to tell the senate about meetings with the russian ambassador. coincidence michael flynn would lie about a conversation with the same russian ambassador? is it possible all these events and reports are completely unrelated? and nothing more than a entirely unhappy coincidence?
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yes, it is possible. but it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they're not coincidental, not disconnected, and not unrelated. tonight, paul manifort issued a statement. i had no role or involvement in the cyberattack on the dnc or subsequent release of information gained from the attack. but what may have been the oddest moment of the day came in response to a tweet from the president. quoting, comey, even as comey was still testifying. so, committee members put that tweet to their witness. is the tweet as i read it to you, the nsa and fbi tell congress that russia did not influence the electoral process, is that accurate? >> we offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it is never something that we looked at. >> remarkable moment where you had an fbi director responding in real time to a president's tweets and underscores the bizarre nature of this relationship evolving almost
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feud maybe even a war between these two critical parts of our government. >> reporter: the now incontrovertible fact that the fbi is investigating the possibility of collusion between the trump campaign and the russians was not the only big headline today. as comey also deflated the competing story line advanced by president trump that president obama bugged trump tower. >> i have no information that supports those tweets. >> reporter: then there is the claim that obama enlisted british spies to help in that? >> three intelligence sources have informed fox news that president obama went outside the chain of command, didn't use the nsa, didn't use the cia, didn't use the fbi, and he dent uidn't the department of justice. gchq. >> gchq, the british version of nsa. >> quote a very talented legal mind who was the one responsible
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for saying that ton television. you sthunt y >> fox news cannot confirm judge napalotano's commentary, fox news knows of noef evidence that the president of the united states was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop. >> reporter: the brit, government objected to the gchq theory as utter nonsense. today the head of the nsa seemed to agree. >> did you ever request that your counterparts in gchq should wiretap mr. trump on behalf of mr. obama. >> no sir, nor would i. that would be against the construct of the agreement in place for decades. >> reporter: seems like the two headlines out of this thing are one, no evidence of wiretapping. and two, an ongoing investigation into the possibility of collusion is that what you took from this? >> yeah, i saw it as worst case scenario for the white house. james comey went about as far as
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he could responsibly in talking about the two issues. and in both cases, black eyes for the white house. and, donald trump and his spokespeople's credibility. >> reporter: just after fbi director comey said there is no information to confirm the president's allegations about president obama, i asked sean spicer would the president admit he was wrong and apologize to the president obama? the answer is a flat no. is the president prepared to withdraw the accusation, apologize to the president? >> no. we started a hearing. it is still ongoing. as chairman nunez mentioned one in a series of hearings that will be happening. >> reporter: today republican committee members pursued two lines of attack. one, reinforcing the point that however much russia may have wanted to influence the election, there is no proof they actually changed the outcome of any votes. >> do you have any evidence that russia cyberactors changed vote
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tallies in the state of michigan? >> no, i do not. but i would highlight we are in foreign intelligence organization. >> the state of pennsylvania? >> no, sir. >> the state of wisconsin? >> no, sir. >> the state of florida? >> no, sir. >> the state of north carolina? >> no, sir. >> the state of ohio? >> no, sir. >> reporter: if russia did try to interfere, what's the goal? >> the kremlin wanted to show that american democracy may isn't so special. it's not immune to foreign meddling. >> reporter: mission accomplished? >> mission accomplished. look at the conversation now. >> reporter: republicans also hilt ha hit hard on likelihood individuals with access to intelligence intercepts leaked key details with an eye towards embarrassing the trump administration. >> i hope people watching know how serious we take leaks of information. >> reporter: to the president and his allies the whole story is a mccarthyite witch-hunt. but clearly not that to the fbi director.
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>> were you engaged in mccarthyism, director comey? >> i try very hard not to engage in isms of any kind, including mccarthyism. >> reporter: today's hearing one of the early acts in a drama likely to unfold for months. i'm david wright for "nightline," in new york. ♪ up next, the president's harsh accusation not just against former president obama, but also foreign governments. is all of this hurting our country's standing on the world stage? ♪ ♪ does psoriasis ever get in the way of a touching moment? if you have moderate to severe psoriasis, you can embrace the chance of completely clear skin with taltz. taltz is proven to give you a chance at completely clear skin. with taltz, up to 90% of patients had a significant improvement of their psoriasis plaques. in fact, 4 out of 10 even achieved completely clear skin. do not use if you are allergic to taltz.
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the turmoil in the trump
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administration playing out very publicly unnerving some of our closest allies. tonight we examine how his tweet storms and news of the ongoing fbi investigation are being received abroad. here is abc's chief global affairs correspondent martha raddatz. >> reporter: tonight at a rally in kentucky, president trump ignored today's bombshell disclosures, forget about russian connections, the president stuck to his usual theme. >> -- and this, the united states of america is your country again. >> reporter: and his supporters loved it. a far cry from that stunning hearing today where for the first time fbi director james comey confirmed that his agency is investigating whether anyone from trump's campaign team colluded with russia during the election. >> all i can tell you is what we are investigating. which includes whether there was coordination between people associated with the trump
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campaign and russians. >> russia isn't his only problem. around the globe, the president has some world leaders at the very least bewildered and others downright angry. earlier today, his honored guest, iraqi prime minister al-abadi, gamely looking on as trump ignored question after question. >> mr. president -- >> reporter: only days ago, german chancellor angela merkel giving him that look that launched 1,000 memes. >> as far as wiretapping, i guess by, this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps. >> reporter: that joke landing like lead, two weeks after the saturday morning tweet dominated headlines and sent shock waves across the world. is it just business as usual? do you think this happens in every administration or is this different? >> certainly breaking protocol.
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among the diplomats to come in and set new protocols to insult allies, to suggest they're doing things illegal, suggest they're not contributing in ways they actually are, you are making enemies when you don't need to be making enemies. >> reporter: last week the white house upped the ante, dragging the british into the wiretapping claim, citing fox news as their source. >> the judge made the following statement, three intelligence sources informed fox news president obama went outside the chain of command. didn't use the nsa, didn't use the cia. didn't use the fbi didn't use the department of justice. he used gchq. what is that? initials for british intelligence spying agency. >> reporter: adding britain to the list of countries with possible grievances against the new administration. the gchq denied those allegations stating they are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored. >> when is this going to stop? when the crisis comes and at
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some point in his term we'll have a crisis not of his own making but a crisis from north korea or iran, country is going to need to believe its president. he is making that very, very difficult. >> reporter: and north korea is already turning up the heat. this past weekend, announcing it tested a new rocket engine. another step in its attempt to develop a nuclear weapon tipped missile capable of reaching the united states. president trump responding from "air force one" sunday. >> doing well. a lot of meetings on that. and meetings on north korea. he is acting, very, very badly. i will fell you he is acting very badly. >> they're looking at washington saying we're going to continue on with the developing of our nuclear weapons capability with our ability to launch nuclear weapons on rockets because obviously they're tied up with domestic politics and not come do anything to us. >> reporter: but those domestic politics have serious implications for the rest of the world too. something the former ambassador to russia says shouldn't be
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taken slightly. >> the ambition of what the russians tried to do in our elections, trying to influence outcome, in favor of one candidate, was quite diabolical. and the danger is they're going to do the same thing in france, in germany, if we don't figure out how to stop them. >> reporter: but in russia, dismissiveness from the top down. putin's spokesman, telling reporters earlier today, these are u.s. internal affairs. our general attitude to this hysterics is well known. and we have nothing to add. >> the reaction among ordinary russians is very similar to that among many of donald trump's supporters in the u.s. they don't believe the russia allegations and think they're a plot by the democrats and american intelligence services to undermine him. >> the american people are wise enough to choose their president. they don't think russia has interfered in this. >> we have such a -- we don't have such an influence on worldwide politics. >> reporter: beyond the
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election, what does putin get out of this? >> he gets chaos. he can stir things up in europe. keep the u.s. off balance. he runs amok and gains advantage around the world. >> reporter: no denying other countries are on edge. in the netherlands, the dutch opted to count ballots the old-fashioned way with pen and paper to ward off meddling from outsiders in their national election. >> we will make america great again! >> reporter: tonight, back in the u.s., that make america great rally, a sign of things to come. it was paid for by the campaign committee. campaign 2020 already under way. a campaign that ambassador says the russians will be keenly interested in. >> when a foreign government is trying to actually usurp the authority of the people of that country to decide who their leader is then that is serious business. >> one of the lessons they may draw from this they were successful.
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they introduced chaos, division, dischord and sewed doubt about the nature of this country and our democratic process. it is possible they're misreading that as it worked. so we will come back and hit them again in 2020. >> for "nightline," i'm martha raddatz in washington. ♪ ♪ up next, the trump children also in the news. hoi how ivanka trump is getting even closer to her dad. >> announcer: this special edition of "nightline" brought to you by jcpenney. we can't stay here!
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