The Latest on a congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election (all times local):
2:25 p.m. — The White House is distancing itself from two former senior members of Donald Trump‘s team, amid an FBI investigation into possible connections between Trump “associates” and Russia.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday referred to Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as a “volunteer of the campaign.” And he said Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign leading up to the Republican National Convention, “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
Flynn resigned from the White House last month after he was found to have misled senior members of the administration about his contacts with Russia’s top diplomat to the U.S.
Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign last summer following allegations of contacts with Russian intelligence officials.
1:35 p.m. — Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi says an independent investigative commission should be created to look into possible links and coordination between associates of President Donald Trump and Russian officials seeking to undermine Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign.
Pelosi’s comments came after FBI Director James Comey confirmed in congressional testimony that the agency has been investigating the matter since last July. He also told the panel that he has no evidence that former President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower.
California Democrat Pelosi said that “the American people deserve answers.”
She said that the possibility of Trump officials and Russian officials conspiring to influence the election “represents a grave threat to our national security and our democracy.”
Pelosi says Trump should apologize over his extraordinary wiretapping claim.
1 p.m. — President Donald Trump is highlighting FBI Director James’ Comey‘s refusal to say whether he briefed President Barack Obama on a Trump adviser’s contacts with Russia.
Trump tweeted a video clip of Comey being asked if he informed Obama about calls made by Michael Flynn, who was fired as White House national security adviser. Comey says he won’t discuss that case or any other discussions he had with Obama.
The tweet appears to suggest that the Obama administration was behind leaks about Flynn’s contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Flynn was fired after news reports revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials about his discussions with the envoy.
11:25 a.m. — Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, is denying that the British intelligence community was ever asked to conduct electronic surveillance on President Donald Trump at the behest of former President Barack Obama.
Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer referred to unsubstantiated allegations made by a Fox News analyst that GCHQ, the British electronic intelligence agency, had helped Obama wiretap Trump. The British intelligence agency flatly denied it happened.
The ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, asked Rogers if he thought it was “utterly ridiculous” that anyone in the U.S. would ask British spies to do surveillance on a presidential candidate. Rogers said it was and added that he had seen nothing at the NSA that would indicate that happened.
11:25 a.m. — The Senate’s top Democrat says that President Donald Trump “severely damaged his credibility” with Twitter postings claiming that former President Barack Obama ordered wiretaps of him.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer issued the statement after FBI Director James Comey told a House panel that there was no information that supports Trump’s allegation.
Schumer said Trump “needs to retract his claim immediately.”
He added that Trump “should admit he was wrong, stop the outlandish tweets.”
11:10 a.m. —FBI Director James Comey says the FBI and Justice Department have no information to substantiate President Donald Trump‘s claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him before the election.
Comey says no individual can order surveillance of an American. He says courts grant this permission after a rigorous application process.
Comey was testifying before the House intelligence committee. Comey said the Justice Department also asked him to share with the committee that the answer also applies to the Justice Department and its various components. The Justice Department oversees the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
10:48 a.m. —FBI Director James Comey and Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, say they have no evidence or intelligence that Russian cyber actors changed vote tallies in key states during last year’s presidential election.
Testifying at a highly politically charged congressional hearing in the House, both said they had no evidence that any vote tallies were changed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina or Ohio.
The House intelligence committee is holding a hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
10:45 a.m. — National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers says the intelligence community stands behind its January assessment that it is highly confident Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of electing Donald Trump.
In a Monday morning tweet, Trump blamed Democrats for the investigation into his contacts and said the House intelligence committee should be focus on investigating leaks.
Rogers said that his agency is working to provide Congress the material it needs to investigate the intelligence agencies’ findings.
Rogers was testifying before the House intelligence committee alongside FBI Director James Comey.
10:35 a.m. — FBI Director James Comey is publicly confirming for the first time that the FBI is investigating Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any potential coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia’s government.
Comey is testifying before Congress. He says he’s authorized by the Justice Department to make the disclosure. Typically, the FBI does not discuss or even confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.
Comey says the probe is part of the FBI’s counter-intelligence mission. He says the investigation includes the nature of any links between individuals associated with Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between Russia’s efforts and the campaign.
Comey says the investigation will also look at whether crimes were committed. He says he can’t provide details about the investigation.
10:25 a.m — The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says he hopes FBI Director James Comey will put questions about whether Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Barack Obama “permanently to rest.”
Rep. Adam Schiff is speaking at the start of the committee’s hearing on Russia’s interference in the presidential election. Comey is testifying at the hearing, along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.
Schiff says Democrats on the committee will be focused in part on whether Americans helped Russia with its hacking of Democratic groups and individuals.
Trump has said he has no knowledge of his associates coordinating with Russia during the election. He’s refused to back down from his assertion that Obama wiretapped his New York City skyscraper during the campaign, despite there being no evidence.
10:10 a.m. — The chairman of the House intelligence committee says there was no physical wiretap on Trump Tower, but it’s possible that “other surveillance activities” were used against President Donald Trump and his associates.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is speaking at the opening of the committee’s first public hearing on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. He says the committee has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents, but will continue to investigate that question.
He also says the committee will investigate who has been leaking classified information about investigations into Russia’s interference.
Nunes says he hopes the committee’s hearings will result in a “definitive report” on Russia’s involvement in the presidential election.
Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press