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Highlights from hearing on Russian interference in election

 Investigation confirmed: James B. Comey, the FBI director, confirmed early in Monday’s hearing that the bureau is indeed, as has been widely reported, investigating the interference by Russian intelligence in the 2016 presidential election — including any possible collusion by aides and associates of President Trump.

Comey said the investigation will cover “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.”

The FBI director noted that the inquiry is technically a counterintelligence investigation, focusing not on criminal conduct but on Russian intelligence activities.

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 Wiretap claim debunked: In strong statements, both Comey and Admiral Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, definitively dismissed Trump’s March 4 Twitter posts claiming that he and his campaign had been the target of eavesdropping ordered by President Barack Obama.

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While the two officials hedged their answers on some questions and declined to answer others, they were unequivocal in rebutting Trump’s assertions. “I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said.

 Ties between Trump, Russia: Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, used his opening statement at the hearing to weave a circumstantial case of connections between Trump’s associates and Russia.

He enumerated the many Trump aides believed to have some kind of contact or communication with Russians: Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser; Paul Manafort, Trump’s second campaign manager; Roger Stone, a political adviser; Michael T. Flynn, who was forced out as Trump’s first national security adviser; and others.

 Media leaks on Russia issues: Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, pursued a parallel strategy, but with a different target altogether: the unnamed officials and former officials who have leaked to the media about Trump-Russia issues.

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Gowdy noted Washington Post and New York Times articles citing anonymous sources to report that in conversations intercepted by US intelligence, Flynn had discussed sanctions against Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Such interceptions are highly classified intelligence, Comey confirmed.

“I thought it was against the law to disseminate classified information. Is it?” Gowdy asked.

“Yes, sir,” Comey replied. “It’s a serious crime.”

SOURCE: New York Times