Transcript for Retracing Trump-Russia allegations from 2016 campaign to FBI investigation
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. 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 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 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, 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? 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 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 use the department of justice. Gchq. Gchq, the British version of NSA. Quote a very talented legal mind who was the one responsible 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 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 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. 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.
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