James Comey, the Director of the FBI, has confirmed the FBI is investigating possible links between Russia and associates of US President Donald Trump.
Mr Comey was speaking before the House intelligence committee as part of a wider probe into the alleged interference of Moscow in the US election, and how this could have influenced the outcome.
Here’s what we learnt from his testimony:
1. There is an ongoing investigation into links between Trump and Russia
In his opening statement, Mr Comey made the first public confirmation that the FBI is conducting an investigation into the links between President Trump’s campaign and Moscow. The investiagtion began in July, three months before Trump was elected. This is an unusually frank admission – the FBI does not usually discuss ongoing investigations. But Mr Comey said that the high levels of public interest in this case meant he had been authorised to do so.
2. There is no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped
The FBI Director refuted Donald Trump’s controversial claims that then-President Barack Obama tapped his phone during last year’s election campaign.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Mr Comey said: “I have no confirmation that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components.”
3. Allegations that GCHQ was involved in wiretapping are untrue
During the hearing, US National Security Agency director Admiral Mike Rogers denied claims that his organisation had asked British Intelligence to take part in a wiretap – an accusation GCHQ dismissed as ‘nonsense’. Admiral Rogers said to do so would have been a violation of the Five Eyes agreement: a system of intelligence sharing between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
4. Party divisions remain pronounced on the issue of links with Russia
Splits between the approaches of Democrats and Republicans emerged early on in the hearing. Adam Schiff, a senior Democrat, focused on the election hack itself and the allegations of ties between Moscow and Trump. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, sought to keep the focus on issues more flattering to the White House, namely whether Trump and his associates have been placed under surveillance, and exposing the leaks within the US Government that have reflected badly on The President.
5. There’s a lot that James Comey isn’t telling us
The FBI director took an unusual step in officially revealing details of an ongoing investigation. But he also made it clear that there was information he would not be sharing. Mr Comey said in his opening statement: ‘Because it is an open ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining. At the request of congressional leaders, we have taken the extraordinary step in coordination with the Department of Justice of briefing this Congress’ leaders, including the leaders of this committee, in a classified setting in detail about the investigation but I can’t go into those details here. I know that is extremely frustrating to some folks. I hope you and the American people can understand. The FBI is very careful in how we handle information about our cases and about the people we are investigating.’