WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey on Monday will testify to Congress about Russian attempts to disrupt last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Since July, when he made his first statement on the FBI investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, Comey has been the focus of ire. He has been a hero to Democrats, a villain to Republicans, a villain to Democrats, a hero to Republicans.
Democrats blame Comey for costing Clinton the election. They now count on him for the information to finally tear apart President Donald Trump’s allegations that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower in New York during the campaign.
But Comey’s reality is that as he settles down to address the House Intelligence Committee in the first public testimony about intelligence issues surrounding the past election, he’s returning to a place that is frequently angry at him and constantly calling on him to return.
Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, will also be questioned and is expected to have just as much information as Comey.
The hearing begins the public process to determine whether there’s fire beneath the smoke covering the nation’s capital. Investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees and other congressional panels, including the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Government Oversight Committee, are dealing with a wide range of issues.
Recent headlines and statements have focused on whether Obama ordered Trump Tower to be wiretapped during the campaign. There is little belief, even among Trump loyalists, that Trump’s accusations will be vindicated.
On Sunday, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that there is no proof in new documents provided to Congress by the Justice Department on Friday to support Trump’s wiretapping claim.
“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No, but there never was, and the information we got on Friday continues to lead us in that direction,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said on “Fox News Sunday.”
He added, “There was no FISA warrant that I’m aware of to tap Trump Tower” — a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a federal law that governs the issuance of search warrants in U.S. intelligence gathering.
But the Trump Tower wiretap claim is really a sidelight to the main investigation. The big question is whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a January report. And if it did, did anyone in Russia work with — “collude” is the preferred word — anyone in the Trump campaign?
Nunes has said Comey’s testimony is part of the investigation, not a show of already known facts. “We’re looking for answers to a number of questions,” he said. “That’s what I expect: answers.”
The Washington Post contributed to this report.