FBI director confirms agency is probing Russian links to Trump campaign

FBI director confirms agency is probing Russian links to Trump campaign

According to Comey, while Russia collected information from these hacks, it did not leak any of it. Photograph: (Reuters)

New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 20, 2017, 09.59 PM (IST)

FBI Director James Comey confirmed for the first time Monday that the agency is investigating Russian interference in last year's presidential election and notably Moscow's possible collusion with President Donald Trump's campaign.

The FBI "is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," Comey told a hearing by the House Intelligence Committee.

"And 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," he said.

Watch FBI Director Comey describe his agency's assessment of the Russian motive behind hacking the Democrats.

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Background

Several members of Trump's team during the election, and official members of his administration once taking office, have lied about their contact with Russian officials. 

Notably, National Securtity Adviser Michael Flynn, who had to resign after misleading US Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn had promised Pence he had not discussed US sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by US officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and Kislyak.

Also, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had to recuse himself from any investigation into Trump's alleged Russian connections after it came to light that he lied under oath about not having contact with any Russian officials, when actually he had also met at least twice with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

When asked in February of 2016 if anyone from his staff had communicated with Russia during his election campaign, Mr Trump said: “Nobody that I know of”. 

During the campaign, Roger Stone was a top Trump adviser for a time. He has since admitted to having a "perfectly legal back channel" to Julian Assange, whose website WikiLeaks published hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which Trump repeatedly used during the campaign to cudgel Clinton.

It has also since come to light that Stone also had private contact with Guccifer 2.0, the identity of the person who hacked the Democrats. US intelligence says Guccifer 2.0 is really GRU, or Russian military intelligence. Thus, an official member of Trump's election campaign admitted to having communication with both WikiLeaks and the Russian hacker who hacked the Democrats. 

Roger Stone has denied any wrongdoing.

Other members of Trump's team who lied about contact with Russian officials before the November 8, 2016 US election include: Paul Manafort, Carter Page, JD Gordon, and even Donald Trump himself.

Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner also met with Russian ambassador Segey Kislyak, but after the election.

Trump took to Twitter early in the morning before the House Intelligence Committee hearing to denounce the ongoing story between his election campaign and Russia, calling it "FAKE NEWS".  

(WION with inputs from AFP)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

The agency is investigating Russia's interference in the US election, but also whether or not Trump's team actively worked with them

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