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Comey to testify on Russia hacking, wiretapping claims

Washington

FBI director James Comey will be in the hot seat on Monday facing lawmakers who accuse him of stonewalling Congress, as they demand answers about Donald Trump’s potential Russia ties and the president’s extraordinary accusation of wiretapping by his predecessor.

The two explosive issues have preoccupied Republicans and Democrats alike for weeks, robbing Trump’s administration of a smoother rollout and raising uncomfortable questions about possible collusion between Trump associates and the Kremlin. The stakes for the tycoon-turned-world-leader could hardly be higher.

Comey will testify before the House Intelligence Committee at an open hearing aimed at investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election campaign.

National Security Agency director Mike Rogers is also scheduled to testify.

The US intelligence community has publicly blamed Moscow for hacks of the Democratic National Committee last year, and suggested the cyber attacks were aimed at steering the election to a Trump victory.

Russia has denied involvement in the hacks.

Several congressional panels have launched investigations into Russia’s alleged interference, including House and Senate intelligence committees, which have jurisdiction over the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, and the House and Senate judiciary committees.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also probing Russian interference in the election.

The question remains whether the agency has opened a criminal investigation into possible ties between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials.

Monday’s hearing promises to be a very public showdown between the FBI and lawmakers, with the national security world certain to watch whether Comey drops a political bombshell on Washington.

Members of Congress have expressed mounting frustration over the lack of cooperation from the FBI about Russia and Trump’s incendiary wiretap claim, which Barack Obama and an array of other officials have flatly denied.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, vented his anger at the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, by threatening not to hold a vote on Trump’s nominee for deputy attorney general until he gets answers from Comey.

The FBI director then trooped up to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to brief Grassley and the judiciary panel’s top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, behind closed doors.

The information discussed was “highly classified,” Feinstein told reporters afterward.

“It’s really not anything that we can answer any questions about.”

Agence France-Presse