Review Category : Politics

Key moments from today’s hearing with FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The heads of the FBI and National Security Agency, James Comey and Mike Rogers, testified for hours in front of the House Intelligence Committee Monday, answering questions for the first time about Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of wiretapping against his predecessor.

The hearing was eagerly anticipated by those looking for specifics on Russia’s suspected interference in the race for the White House, whether Trump associates coordinated with Russian officials and whether the intelligence community had any evidence of Trump’s assertion that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his successor, as Trump had claimed.

The intelligence community had previously said that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election to bolster Trump’s chances and sources had said the FBI was investigating people associated with Trump’s campaign for alleged communication with Russian officials during the campaign. Several top lawmakers have also said they’ve seen no evidence of Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.

Here are the top moments from the testimony:

Comey says he is investigating potential links between Russia and the Trump campaign

Comey told the panel that the FBI is investigating “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election — 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.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Department of Justice to reveal the existence of an ongoing investigation, which is unusual for the organization. “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,” Comey continued. “I can’t go into those details here. I know that is extremely frustrating to some folks. But it is the way it has to be.”

Comey and Rogers say they have no evidence of Trump’s wiretapping claims

Both Comey and Rogers told the committee that they knew of no evidence that former President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower — an unsubstantiated allegation that Trump tweeted more than two weeks ago.

“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” said Comey. “We have no information that supports them.”

“No individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone,” he continued.

And Rogers echoed the sentiments. “I have seen nothing on the NSA side that we engaged in any such activity,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today told reporters Trump isn’t withdrawing his allegations. Neither Trump nor the White House have provided any substantiation for the claim.

Comey says Russia may try to hack again

Comey warned that Russia may view its intervention in the 2016 presidential campaign as a success. He said that the United States should be prepared for Russia to attempt to intervene in the 2018 midterm elections or the 2020 presidential election.

“They’ll be back. They’ll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018,” Comey said. “One of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful because they introduced chaos and division and discord and sewed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our democratic process,” Comey explained. “We think we have to assume they’re coming back.”

“I think, in part, their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation,” he said.

A January report from the intelligence community said that Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the election that included covert and over operations.

Vladimir Putin ‘hated’ Hillary Clinton

Comey hinted at a potential reason for Russian meddling in the U.S. election during the hearing.

“Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that, the flip side of that coin was, he had a clear preference to the person running against the person he hated so much,” Comey told lawmakers today at the Capitol.

“The assessment of the intelligence community was, as the summer went on and the polls appeared to show that Secretary Clinton was going to win, the Russians sort of gave up and simply focused on trying to undermine her. It’s the raiders. You know they’re not going to win, so you hope key people on the other team get hurt so they’re not such a tough opponent down the road.” Comey also said it was “correct” that his sentiments went beyond a distaste for Clinton — but also encompassed a favorable view of Trump.

House Intelligence Panel Chair Devin Nunes leaves door open to other surveillance

The panel’s leader, Rep. Devin Nunes, has previously said there was no physical wiretapping, but left the door open to the possibility of other surveillance. “We know there was not a physical wiretap,” Nunes said. “However, it is still possible other surveillance tactics were used to monitor Trump and his associates.”

The White House has said Trump, who used the word wiretapping in quotation marks in some — but not all — of his tweets, meant broader surveillance than a literal wiretap.

Neither the White House nor Nunes has given concrete evidence of broader surveillance, and the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said there were “no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance.”

Comey and Rogers talk football

In explaining Russia’s thought process in meddling with the US election, Comey used his disdain for the New England Patriots as a metaphor as to why the Russians wanted Hillary Clinton to lose so badly that they intervened to help Trump win the election.

“To put it in a homely metaphor, I hate the New England Patriots. And no matter who they play, I’d like them to lose. So I’m at the same time rooting against the Patriots and hoping their opponent beats them because it’s only two teams on the field,” Comey said.

Later in the hearing, Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., thanked Comey and his agency for recovering Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jersey (which has since been found):

“Thank you. If I’m honest with myself, the reason I don’t like the Patriots is they represent sustained excellence,” Comey admitted. “As a Giants fan, that drives me crazy.” NSA director Rogers was also asked if he had any comment on the Patriots, to which he answered, “I’m a Chicago Bears guy, born and bred.”

Comey fact checks Trump’s tweet

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., questioned the FBI director on a tweet that came from President Trump’s official Twitter handle, which is managed by White House director of social media Dan Scavino.

The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. pic.twitter.com/d9HqkxYBt5

— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017

“Is that accurate?” Himes asked Comey, after reading the tweet out loud.

“Well, it’s hard for me to react to them,” Comey said. “We’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it’s never something we looked at.”

Himes followed up again, “It’s not too far of a logical leap to conclude the assertion you have told Congress that there was no influence on the electoral process is not quite right?”

“Right,” Comey said. “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today because we don’t have any information on that subject. That’s not something that was looked at.”

Comey media reports containing classified information

During the hearing, Republican committee members’ questions focused largely on leaks of classified information to the media — a point that has also been pushed by Trump.

In his opening remarks, Comey said that leaks of classified information are “serious, serious federal crimes for a reason.”

“They should be investigated and where possible, prosecuted, in a way that reflects that seriousness so that people understand it simply cannot be tolerated,” Comey said.

He said even if news reports pertaining to classified information are false, he cannot dispute them publicly.

“We just can’t do that because we’ll give information to our adversaries that way, and it’s very, very frustrating, but we can’t start down that road,” Comey said.

“We cannot do that with classified information. It’s very, very frustrating because I’ve read a whole lot of stuff, especially in the last two months, that’s just wrong, but I can’t say which is wrong, and I can’t say it to those reporters.”

Comey admits he should have warned DNC on hacking

Comey acknowledged that in retrospect, the FBI should have “sent up a much larger flare” and “kept banging and banging on the door” when the Democratic National Committee was hacked in the 2016 campaign.

What’s more, Comey offered a description of just how big the Russian effort was -– he said that in this particular case, the U.S. government had to notify more than 1,000 entities that the Russians were hitting at the same time.

“Knowing what I know now, we would have made extensive efforts to notify … I would have walked over there myself knowing what we know now. But I think the efforts we made, that our agents made, were reasonable at the time,” he said.

Comey said that the FBI first notified DNC of hack in August 2015. Comey said the FBI “never got direct access to the [DNC] machines themselves. The DNC in spring of 2016 hired a firm that ultimately shared with us their forensics from their review of the system.”

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Spicer: Former campaign chairman had ‘very limited role’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As the House Intelligence Committee pressed the directors of the FBI and NSA for details about the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was attempting to distance the administration from a former top aide with ties to the region.

At Monday’s press briefing, Spicer downplayed the role of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who directed the strategy behind election efforts for three months last year.

“Obviously there has been some discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time,” said Spicer, who ignored a follow-up request for clarification, given Manafort’s position.

Questioned later during briefing about his characterization of Manafort’s work and the possibility that he may have had contact with Russia due to his prior lobbying work in Ukraine, Spicer said he wasn’t “looking to re-litigate the election.”

“I believe Paul was brought on sometime in June and by the middle of August he was no longer with the campaign,” said Spicer. “Meaning that for the entire final stretch of the general election, he was not involved. And so to start to look at some individual who was there for a short period of time, or separately individuals who really didn’t play a role in the campaign and suggest those are the basis for anything, is a bit ridiculous.”

Manafort served as campaign chairman for a period of 99 days from May 19 to Aug. 19. During that time, Trump won six Republican primary contests, clinched the number of delegates needed for the party’s nomination, chose Mike Pence to be his running mate and attended the Republican National Convention, where he accepted the GOP’s bid and launched his general election campaign.

In August, officials in Ukraine said Manafort’s name was included on a list of “black accounts” made by the former Ukraine President Victor Yanukovych, a supporter of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

After Manafort resigned from the campaign, his duties were largely taken over by Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, who were named the campaign’s chief executive and manager, respectively.

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A list of lawmakers and intelligence officials questioning President Trump’s unsubstantiated wiretapping claims

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — As of Monday, more than a dozen top lawmakers and intelligence officials have said that there is no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s tweets alleging that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower.

The list now includes today’s comments from FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, who said they’d seen no evidence to support the president’s claims during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Early March 4, while away at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump fired off his first tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower in New York during the election. Trump then posted three more tweets, comparing the allegations to President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

A spokesman for Obama rebutted the claims later that same day.

In an interview last week, Trump clarified his tweets. “‘Wiretap’ covers a lot of different things,” he told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”

Those who’ve spoken out about the accusations also include the bipartisan leaders of both the House and the Senate, as well as the bipartisan leaders of both chambers’ intelligence panels. In addition, some have gone a step further, saying there are no indications any kind of surveillance was conducted at Trump Tower at all.

Here’s a look at what Washington’s major players have said about the wiretapping allegations:

James Comey, FBI director

“I have no information that supports those tweets.” – March 20

Mike Rogers, NSA director

“I have seen nothing on the NSA side that we engaged in any such activity.” – March 20

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, Senate minority leader

“Pres. Trump needs to retract his claim immediately.” – March 20

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

“I don’t know what basis the president has for these allegations.” – March 19

Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, chairman and vice chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively

“We see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government.” – March 16

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, speaker of the House

“I have seen no evidence of wiretapping.” – March 16

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, House minority leader

“We see no evidence to support his outrageous allegations.” – March 16

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, chairman of House Intelligence Committee

“We don’t have any evidence that that took place. … I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.” – March 15

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, ranking member of House Intelligence Committee

“I’ve seen no evidence that supports the claim that President Trump made that his predecessor had wiretapped he and his associates at Trump Tower.” – March 15

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina

“I don’t know of any evidence where the FBI tried to obtain a warrant against the Trump campaign to wiretap them.” – March 15

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona

“I have no reason to believe this is true.” – March 12

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Senate majority leader

“There’s no evidence of that. I’ve not heard of it before.” – March 9

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas

“I have seen no evidence of that.” – March 8

James Clapper, former director of national intelligence

“There was no wiretap against Trump Tower during the campaign conducted by any part of the National Intelligence Community.” – March 6

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

“I see no evidence of what he has alleged.” – March 5

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida

“I’ve never seen anything about that anywhere before.” – March 5

Kevin Lewis, spokesperson for former President Obama

“Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.” – March 4

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White House digs in on Trump wiretapping claims despite Comey testimony

FBI(WASHINGTON) — The White House did not back down from Trump’s unsubstantiated wiretapping claims in today’s press briefing, despite testimony from FBI Director James Comey this morning that he has “no information that supports” the President’s allegations.

“We started a hearing. It is still ongoing,” Spicer told reporters, saying “no” the President would not withdraw his the claims in his tweet asserting that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.

More than a dozen top lawmakers and intelligence officials have now said there’s no evidence to support President Trump‘s tweet alleging that former President Obama wiretapped him. The list now includes Comey, as well as NSA Director Mike Rogers — as well as the bipartisan leaders of both the House and the Senate, as well as both chambers’ intelligence panels.

In today’s briefing, Spicer also continued to deny any collusion between Trump associates and Russia, saying that “investigating and having proof are two different things.”

“Following this testimony, it is clear that nothing has changed,” Spicer said. “Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm there is no evidence of a Trump-Russia collusion. The Obama CIA director said so, Obama’s director of national intelligence said so and we take them at their word.”

Spicer said he was not aware of any White House officials under investigation by the FBI or that any had to do interviews with the FBI.

“There is a point at which you continue to search for something that everybody [who] has been briefed has not seen or found,” Spicer said.

He also said that he has no reason to believe that the president’s confidence in Comey has been altered.

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Judge Neil Gorsuch called on to represent all Americans in confirmation hearing

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court began Monday with high praise from Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who hailed Gorsuch as an “exceptional” nominee, but Democrats expressed concern over his conservative principles.

In his opening statement, Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Gorsuch’s record as a federal judge.

“Fortunately for every American, we have before us today a nominee whose body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles. His grasp on the separation of powers—including judicial independence—enlivens his body of work,” Grassley said.

He continued, “The nominee before us understands that any judge worth his salt will ‘regularly issue judgments with which they disagree as a matter of policy—all because they think that’s what the law fairly demands.'”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., underscored the need for an objective Supreme Court judge in light of the Trump presidency.

“You are going to have your hands full with this president,” Durbin said. “He will keep you busy. It is incumbent on any nominee to demonstrate that he or she will serve as an independent check or balance on the presidency.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in his remarks, “Donald Trump deserves to be congratulated for listening to a lot of people and coming up with what I think is the best choice available in terms of nominating someone who will keep the conservative philosophy alive and well in the court.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking member, addressed issues of relevance to Democrats in her prepared remarks: reproductive rights, voting rights, campaign finance, the environment and gun control.

“We’re here today under very unusual circumstances,” she said, pointing out that nearly a year ago President Obama had nominated Merrick Garland as the next Supreme Court judge. Garland was never granted a confirmation hearing after strong opposition from Republicans.

“I just want to say I’m deeply disappointed that it’s under these circumstances that we begin our hearing,” Feinstein added.

She stressed the role of the Supreme Court in upholding historic landmark decisions and protecting the legal constitutional rights of all Americans including women, people of color, minorities and the poor.

Gorsuch, 49, is a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote. He clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He attended Harvard Law and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall scholar.

Like Scalia — who died at the age of 79 in February 2016 — Gorsuch is a textualist and an originalist. And his views, background and legal writings will be publicly scrutinized over the course of the week long proceedings.

“I am concerned when I hear that Judge Gorsuch is an originalist and a strict textualist,” Feinstein said.

In legal circles, Gorsuch is considered a gifted writer. His book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, examines the legal and ethical issues surrounding assisted suicides. In the book, Gorsuch concludes that any form of euthanasia should not be legalized.

Law professor and legal expert Carl Tobis said he believes the questioning at Gorsuch’s hearings will be “respectful” but “rigorous.”

Tobias added that he expects “GOP members to strongly support Gorsuch and to ask questions that make him appear within the mainstream,” while Democrats “will ask about areas, issues and views where he might appear to be outside the mainstream. One key area is judicial deference to the Executive generally and this President specifically, deference to administration.”

When it comes to religious liberties and access to contraception, Gorsuch is a defender of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

He has sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, in which the plaintiffs argued for an exemption from the contraception mandate in President Obama’s signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, citing their religious beliefs.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch wrote, “The ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.”

When it comes to criminal procedure, he dissented in the United States v. Carlos case, arguing that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a home that had a “no trespassing” sign posted.

In a press conference last week, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., cautioned that Gorsuch has important questions to answer about some of his opinions, most notably “his decisions he wrote that favored the powerful over the powerless.”

Schumer last week suggested that he would not support the confirmation of Gorsuch and urged his Senate Democratic colleagues to do the same.

Gorsuch supporter Leonard Leo of The Federalist Society told ABC News he is confident that “Gorsuch will be confirmed.”

The hearings are expected to conclude by the end of the week.

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FBI director has ‘no information’ supporting Trump’s wiretapping claims

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — FBI Director James Comey Monday said he has “no information” supporting President Donald Trump’s allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped his presidential campaign last year.

“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee Monday at his much-anticipated hearing, marking the U.S. law enforcement community’s first public response to wiretapping allegations that the White House has promoted for more than two weeks.

“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. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”

When asked whether President Obama could even unilaterally order a wiretap, Comey said, “No president could.”

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The chairman of the committee also acknowledged there is no evidence to support such an allegation but, he said, other Trump associates may have been followed.

“Let me be clear. I’ve been saying this for several weeks. We know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said in his opening statement.

Comey also confirmed that the agency he oversees is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election, in addition to possible links between Trump associates and Russia.

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election — 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,” Comey said.

Comey said the FBI has been investigating the Russia matter for “a fairly short period of time” but he wouldn’t say how far along the investigation is.

National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, who is also testifying Monday, said he agreed that the claim that British intelligence eavesdropped on the Trump campaign for Obama is nonsense.

“I have seen nothing on the NSA side that we engaged in any such activity,” Rogers said.

Asked whether he asked British intelligence to wiretap Trump campaign, Rogers said: “No, sir, nor would I. That would be expressly against the construct of the [international intelligence] agreement that’s been in place.”

Asked whether such public claims of British spying affect the United States’ relationship with Britain, Rogers said, “It clearly frustrates it, a key ally of ours.”

The hearing Monday is about much more than the unfounded accusations first lodged on Twitter. Its main purpose is to look at how Russia interfered with last year’s presidential election, and to understand FBI inquiries into whether any U.S. citizens helped the Russian government.

“I would like the American people to walk away understanding that we were attacked,” House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told ABC News Sunday. “The perpetrator was Russia, and there are serious questions about ties” between Trump associates and Russian officials, he said.

Indeed, the FBI has been conducting a months-long and multipronged investigation of Russia’s attempts to influence the presidential election.

One key part of the probe has focused on Russian hackers who stole and then disseminated damaging information from inside the Democratic National Committee and U.S. political institutions, while another division of the FBI is looking at Russian efforts to collect intelligence on U.S. policy and the presidential campaigns, including contacts between Russian operatives and associates of President Trump.

“If it’s just 100 coincidences, let the world know that is what it is, and let’s move on,” but if there is more to the contacts and a “convergence of political and financial ties,” then those ties need to be “investigated fully,” Swalwell said. “This is not going away until we find out whether these are coincidences or a convergence.”

Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told NBC News Sunday, “there is circumstantial evidence of collusion” and “direct evidence I think of deception.”

In citing alleged deception, Schiff was likely referring to former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who was fired from the White House after falsely telling Vice President Michael Pence and others that he never spoke about sensitive matters with Russian officials ahead of the inauguration.

But Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee — one of several congressional committees looking into allegations of Russian meddling in the election — insisted he has seen “no evidence of collusion” between Trump associates and the Russian government, noting that the only direct evidence of a crime he’s seen is the leaking of classified U.S. intelligence to reporters, including information about Flynn’s pre-inauguration contacts with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak.

The Washington Post first revealed that, despite Flynn’s private denials, he had discussed Obama administration sanctions against Russia with Kislyak — a discussion captured by U.S. spy agencies eavesdropping on Kislyak. The Washington Post later revealed that now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had also met with Kislyak at least twice during the campaign.

Sessions, a former senator and top adviser to Trump’s campaign, has since recused himself from any criminal investigations tied to last year’s presidential race.

Comey’s testimony Monday will “probably be the most limited” on the issue of alleged collusion, “but there’s a lot he can tell us about the Russian motivations for their intervention, how the Russians operate in Europe, [and] what techniques they use,” Schiff said Sunday.

Asked whether Comey will make clear Monday that there is no evidence to support White House claims of Obama-era wiretapping against Trump associates, Schiff said, “I expect that he will, and I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase because what the president said was just patently false.”

Swalwell called the wiretapping claims a “smoke bomb” intended to “fog up the place and obstruct” investigations into ties between Trump circles and the Russian government.

Even Nunes acknowledged there is no evidence indicating the Obama administration was eavesdropping on the Trump campaign.

“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No. There never was,” Nunes told Fox News on Sunday.

Nunes and Schiff are among a handful of top lawmakers who have already been privately briefed by Comey about FBI findings so far related to Russia.

The White House escalated the entire issue last week when spokesman Sean Spicer cited a Fox News commentator’s claims that a British spy agency eavesdropped on the Trump campaign at the Obama administration’s behest. The claims angered British officials and have since been widely panned as unfounded — even by Fox News itself.

Trump should apologize to Britain and the American people for making the false wiretapping claims, Hurd said on ABC’s This Week.

“We got to make sure that we’re all working together,” he added. “We live in a very dangerous world, and we can’t do this alone.”

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Judge Neil Gorsuch on Capitol Hill for confirmation hearing

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, began his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday.

In his opening statement, Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Gorsuch’s “exceptional record” as a federal judge.

“Fortunately for every American, we have before us today a nominee whose body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles. His grasp on the separation of powers — including judicial independence —enlivens his body of work,” Grassley said.

He continued, “The nominee before us understands that any judge worth his salt will ‘regularly issue judgments with which they disagree as a matter of policy — all because they think that’s what the law fairly demands.'”

Gorsuch, 49, is a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote. He clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He attended Harvard Law and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall scholar.

In legal circles, Gorsuch is considered a gifted writer. His book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” examines the legal and ethical issues surrounding assisted suicides. In the book, Gorsuch concludes that any form of euthanasia should not be legalized.

Like Scalia — who died at the age of 79 in February 2016 — Gorsuch is a textualist and an originalist. And his views, background and legal writings will be publicly scrutinized over the course of the week long proceedings.

Law professor and legal expert Carl Tobis said he believes the questioning at Gorsuch’s hearings will be “respectful” but “rigorous.”

Tobias added that he expects “GOP members to strongly support Gorsuch and to ask questions that make him appear within the mainstream,” while Democrats “will ask about areas, issues and views where he might appear to be outside the mainstream. One key area is judicial deference to the Executive generally and this President specifically, deference to administration.”

When it comes to religious liberties and access to contraception, Gorsuch is a defender of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

He has sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, in which the plaintiffs argued for an exemption from the contraception mandate in President Obama’s signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, citing their religious beliefs.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch wrote, “The ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.”

When it comes to criminal procedure, he dissented in the United States v. Carlos case, arguing that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a home that had a “no trespassing” sign posted.

In a press conference last week, Senate democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, cautioned that Gorsuch has important questions to answer about some of his opinions, most notably “his decisions he wrote that favored the powerful over the powerless.”

Schumer last week suggested that he would not support the confirmation of Gorsuch and urged his Senate Democratic colleagues to do the same.

Gorsuch supporter Leonard Leo of The Federalist Society told ABC News he is confident that “Gorsuch will be confirmed.”

The hearings are expected to conclude by the end of the week.

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FBI director begins House testimony, expected to undercut Trump claims of wiretapping

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — FBI Director James Comey has begun testifying at his much-anticipated House hearing where, according to sources familiar with his thinking, he’s expected to officially undercut the wiretapping allegations that the White House has promoted for more than two weeks.

Comey’s comments to the House Intelligence Committee would mark the U.S. law enforcement community’s first public response to President Donald Trump’s continuing insistence that the Obama administration “wiretapped” or otherwise conducted surveillance of Trump’s presidential campaign. National Security Agency director Mike Rogers is also testifying Monday.

“It never hurts to say you’re sorry,” a Republican member of the committee, former CIA officer William Hurd, R-Texas, advised Trump Sunday, telling ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos that the commander-in-chief should apologize for his false statements, which have angered key allies such as Great Britain.

But the hearing today is about much more than the unfounded accusations first lodged on Twitter — its main purpose is to look at how Russia interfered with last year’s presidential election, and to understand FBI inquiries into whether any U.S. citizens helped the Russian government.

“I would like the American people to walk away understanding that we were attacked,” House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told ABC News Sunday. “The perpetrator was Russia, and there are serious questions about ties” between Trump associates and Russian officials, he said.

Indeed, the FBI has been conducting a months-long and multi-pronged investigation of Russia’s attempts to influence the presidential election.

One key part of the probe has focused on Russian hackers who stole and then disseminated damaging information from inside the Democratic National Committee and U.S. political institutions, while another division of the FBI is looking at Russian efforts to collect intelligence on U.S. policy and the presidential campaigns, including contacts between Russian operatives and associates of President Trump.

“If it’s just 100 coincidences, let the world know that is what it is, and let’s move on,” but if there is more to the contacts and a “convergence of political and financial ties,” then those ties need to be “investigated fully,” Swalwell said. “This is not going away until we find out whether these are coincidences or a convergence.”

Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told NBC News Sunday, “there is circumstantial evidence of collusion” and “direct evidence I think of deception.”

In citing alleged deception, Schiff was likely referring to former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who was fired from the White House after falsely telling Vice President Michael Pence and others that he never spoke about sensitive matters with Russian officials ahead of the inauguration.

But Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee — one of several congressional committees looking into allegations of Russian meddling in the election — insisted he has seen “no evidence of collusion” between Trump associates and the Russian government, noting that the only direct evidence of a crime he’s seen is the leaking of classified U.S. intelligence to reporters, including information about Flynn’s pre-inauguration contacts with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak.

The Washington Post first revealed that, despite Flynn’s private denials, he had discussed Obama administration sanctions against Russia with Kislyak — a discussion captured by U.S. spy agencies eavesdropping on Kislyak. The Washington Post later revealed that now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had also met with Kislyak at least twice during the campaign.

Sessions, a former senator and top adviser to Trump’s campaign, has since recused himself from any criminal investigations tied to last year’s presidential race.

Comey’s testimony today will “probably be the most limited” on the issue of alleged collusion, “but there’s a lot he can tell us about the Russian motivations for their intervention, how the Russians operate in Europe, [and] what techniques they use,” Schiff said Sunday.

Asked whether Comey will make clear today that there is no evidence to support White House claims of Obama-era wiretapping against Trump associates, Schiff said, “I expect that he will, and I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase because what the president said was just patently false.”

Swalwell called the wiretapping claims a “smoke bomb” intended to “fog up the place and obstruct” investigations into ties between Trump circles and the Russian government.

Even Nunes acknowledged there is no evidence indicating the Obama administration was eavesdropping on the Trump campaign.

“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No. There never was,” Nunes told Fox News on Sunday.

Nunes and Schiff are among a handful of top lawmakers who have already been privately briefed by Comey about FBI findings so far related to Russia.

The White House escalated the entire issue last week when spokesman Sean Spicer cited a Fox News commentator’s claims that a British spy agency eavesdropped on the Trump campaign at the Obama administration’s behest. The claims angered British officials and have since been widely panned as unfounded — even by Fox News itself.

Trump should apologize to Britain and the American people for making the false wiretapping claims, Hurd said on ABC’s This Week.

“We got to make sure that we’re all working together,” he added. “We live in a very dangerous world, and we can’t do this alone.”

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Progressive groups demand filibuster against Trump’s Supreme Court pick

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Progressive organizations are ramping up their campaign against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and explicitly calling on Senate Democrats to do more to oppose his confirmation to the nation’s highest court.

On Monday, leading organizations on the left, including MoveOn, UltraViolet, DailyKos, NARAL Pro-Choice America and others sent an email to their millions of members asking them to demand that Democrats filibuster any vote to confirm Gorsuch. The new push came as the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday also began their hearings to consider President Trump’s pick to the nation’s highest court.

While the majority of Democrats are expected to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination, there has been palpable frustration among progressive activists that more of them have not yet publicly declared which way they intend to vote. Progressives want commitments now, even before hearings get fully underway.

“We’re not hearing from enough of the Democratic senators that they will fight this nomination with everything they have. We need them to understand that simply stating their opposition to Neil Gorsuch is not enough,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue wrote in an email to the group’s list that went out Monday morning. “We need Senate Democrats to filibuster this nomination and demand a nominee who represents the mainstream values of our country.”

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., held a press conference with individuals he argued had been hurt by Gorsush’s past rulings. Still, he would not definitively say that he planned to vote against the judge. Schumer said that he has a “strong presumption against” Gorsuch but that he would wait until after he heard the judge’s formal testimony before Congress before making up his mind.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed Schumer. He said he was prepared to filibuster Gorsuch if he was not satisfied with the judge’s answers before his committee, but that he had a “profound duty” to question him first before publicly announcing his final decision. Blumenthal said he had prepared “tough but respectful” questions for hearings this week.

In 2013, when Democrats were in the majority, they changed the rules so that federal judges could be confirmed with a simple majority vote, but they maintained the long-standing requirement that Supreme Court picks would first need 60 votes to move their confirmation forward without the threat of a filibuster.

In order to get those 60 votes for his nomination to proceed, Gorsuch would need eight Democrats to vote with Republicans, assuming all Republicans back Trump’s pick. But as that vote — with the 60-vote threshold — is technically a procedural vote, some Democrats may be tempted to vote in favor of it as a compromise and not risk being labeled an obstructionist.

Trump has said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should consider the so-called “nuclear-option,” wherein he would change the rules and allow a vote to proceed without the bipartisan 60-vote requirement, if Democrats slow the process. Schumer said last week that he did not think Republicans wanted to go that route.

Some Democrats have already been out front and vocal about their opposition to Gorsuch, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. They joined advocacy organizations for an event in front of the Supreme Court last week.

“When Justice Scalia died giant corporations and their right wing buddies spent millions of dollars to keep that Supreme Court seat open so Donald Trump could name a replacement. Why? Because giant corporations and their right wing buddies don’t want a neutral court that simply upholds the law for everyone,” Sen. Warren said during the event. “They want a court that favor corporations over real people. And we are here today to fight back.”

There is still a lot of resentment among Democrats that Republicans kept former President Obama’s nominee Judge Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing. After the event with senators and progressives in front of the court last week, volunteers and staff delivered petitions with over a million signatures, they said, urging senators from both parties to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination.

Progressive groups are quick to point out Gorsuch’s conservative record on social issues, including his high-profile ruling in the Hobby Lobby case where he sided with religious employers in their case against an Obama-era mandate to provide contraceptive insurance. Other Democrats would rather focus on what they say is Gorsuch’s record of backing big business over worker rights.

All of the witnesses that Schumer brought to the Hill last week were plaintiffs in cases where Gorsuch sided with an employer over an employee.

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Neil Gorsuch facing ‘rigorous’ confirmation hearing this week

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, begins his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday.

Gorsuch, 49, is a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote. He clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He attended Harvard Law and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall scholar.

In legal circles, he’s considered a gifted writer. His book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” examines the legal and ethical issues surrounding assisted suicides. In the book, Gorsuch concludes that any form of euthanasia should not be legalized.

Like Scalia — who died at the age of 79 in February 2016 — Gorsuch is a textualist and an originalist. And his views, background and legal writings will be publicly scrutinized over the course of the week long proceedings.

Law professor and legal expert Carl Tobis said he believes the questioning will be “respectful” but “rigorous.”

Tobias added that he expects “GOP members to strongly support Gorsuch and to ask questions that make him appear within the mainstream,” while Democrats “will ask about areas, issues and views where he might appear to be outside the mainstream. One key area is judicial deference to the Executive generally and this President specifically, deference to administration.”

When it comes to religious liberties and access to contraception, Gorsuch is a defender of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

He has sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, in which the plaintiffs argued for an exemption from the contraception mandate in President Obama’s signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, citing their religious beliefs.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch wrote, “The ACA’s mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.”

When it comes to criminal procedure, he dissented in the United States v. Carlos case, arguing that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a home that had a “no trespassing” sign posted.

In a press conference last week, Senate democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, cautioned that Gorsuch has important questions to answer about some of his opinions, most notably “his decisions he wrote that favored the powerful over the powerless.”

Schumer last week suggested that he would not support the confirmation of Gorsuch and urged his senate democratic colleagues to do the same.

Gorsuch supporter Leonard Leo of The Federalist Society told ABC News he is confident that” Gorsuch will be confirmed.”

The hearing is expected to conclude by the end of the week.

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