Officials report counterintelligence investigations can take years. As one official I spoke to said, it’s rare that intelligence is conclusive. It’s normally they’re dealing with shades of gray. It’s not black and white.
For example, there could be a source that claims something but they have a tough time corroborating that information. So, it’s unclear, frankly, when this will wrap up. It could be some time, which could mean there will be a cloud hanging over the Trump White House for some time.
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Today is the first day you have the FBI confirming an espionage investigation involving the White House. And when asked if the president himself was personally under investigation, the FBI director said he couldn’t comment on that. So, the gravity of this, you know, can’t be understated. And I think the fact that Comey was so reluctant to answer anything suggests the sort of depth of this investigation — and the response from the White House to triple down on the original tweets, that now the FBI director, the leadership of both intelligence committees, the Brits, the DNI — I mean, anyone who knows about the intelligence concerning, you know, Obama and his potential to surveil Trump has now said that that was false. And the White House still won’t admit that.
STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA SENIOR OFFICER, RUSSIA EXPERT: The problem with counterintelligence investigations is that they’re very, very complicated. I would argue more complicated than most normal legal criminal investigations, because they deal with sensitive, secret information obtained in clandestine fashion that has to be dealt with on a multi-agency type of setting because you’ve got, of course, the FBI has the mandate for domestic collection. So, you’re going to have CIA and NSA who are also going to be involved in terms of collecting information to try to get to the bottom of whatever’s going on.
Counterintelligence (CI) investigations are conducted to prove or disprove an allegation of espionage or other intelligence activities, such as sabotage, assassination, or other national security crimes conducted by or on behalf of a foreign government, organization, or person or international terrorists.
MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY BEAST: I sincerely think that there was a time, 15 years ago if a hearing like this had taken place, you know, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, they would have gone on — the country would have been in an uproar over these allegations. . . Now, of course, if there ever is a smoking gun that shows that President Trump knew about this and was communicating with the Russians, of course, then it would be a big deal. But we live in a world now where people — Donald Trump gets away with so much that there’s the death of outrage. I think we’re more outraged than the average person . . . My point is that like that ultimately — you know, when Richard Nixon, going back to Watergate thing, when Nixon was president, part of what forced him to resign was public pressure and pressure from members of Congress. There was shame. There’s no shame.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE (during the hearing with Comey and Rogers): Is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the GOP platform was a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that Jeff Sessions failed to tell the Senate about his meetings with the Russian ambassador? Is it a coincidence that Michael Flynn would lie about a conversation he had with the same Russian ambassador Kislyak about the most pressing issue facing both countries at the time they spoke, the U.S. imposition of sanctions over Russian hacking of our election designed to help Donald Trump?
Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be a victim of a Russian hack and have his private e-mails published and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware his private e-mails would be exposed? Is it possible all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence?
Yes, it is possible but it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected, and not unrelated. And that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they employed in Europe and elsewhere.
Pundit 1: as unbalanced (bi-partisan) as the hearing appeared to be, here are the most
important things to keep an eye on when you really take a look at that
In terms of Donald Trump`s relationship with the Congress and how far
Republicans in Congress are willing to go in defending the president or not
defending the president.
First of all, the Republicans allowed this hearing to take place. Paul
Ryan could have stopped it and he didn`t. The Republican Chairman of the
Committee Devin Nunes agreed to have the hearing. He did not have to do
He knew that the Democrats were going to use the hearing exactly the way
they did. He knew they were going to use the FBI director and the director
of the NSA to prove that Donald Trump lied about President Obama and he let
Republican Chairman of the committee never once defended Donald Trump`s
tweet. He made no attempts to do that. He did what a lawyer representing
a guilty client does, he changed the subject.
And the rest of the Republicans changed the subject with him to the outrage
of the leaks about Michael Flynn. Consider where those Republican members
of the House were sitting today in the 60th day of the Trump presidency.
Many of them in districts that Donald Trump won overwhelmingly. None of
those Republicans are brave members of Congress. They`re not going to take
any chances alienating all those Trump voters in their districts and so
they didn`t say anything about the tweet.
Because they couldn`t. They couldn`t find a line of defense for Donald
Trump on the tweet. They treated him as if he was guilty of lying in the
tweet and there was nothing they could do about it.
But they were going to let their constituents hear them attacking the
Democrats in some way. They were going to let their constituents hear them
complaining about something.
They wanted to do what Donald Trump always does when backed into a corner.
Complain of unfairness. And so the Republicans in that committee said
nothing today that sounded like agreements with the Democrats.
Everything they said was a complaint against the most unfair force in
Donald Trump`s world, the news media. That terrible dishonest media that
accepts accurate leaks.
Whenever they can get them from the intelligence community, from others in
the government, from anywhere. Not one of those Republicans raging about
the leaks that took down Michael Flynn actually said one word in defense of
So every member of that committee, Republican and Democrat, treated
President Trump as guilty of lying about President Obama in that 6:35 a.m.
And when you watch Congress closely, you always have to watch what they do
and what they don`t do. What they say and what they don`t say.
And what they don`t say is as important as what they say. Frequently, the
most important thing will be the thing that they don`t do or the thing that
they don`t say.
Pundit 2: the FBI chief today came out and essentially said, my
boss, the president, doesn`t tell the truth, and my boss, the president,
was elected president with people who I`ve been investigating since July to
see if they`re coordinating with a foreign power that waged a political
attack against the United States. The stunning thing was, as you noted, the Republicans only focused on the leaks. It was as if Comey said nothing about this investigation and said nothing about Trump`s, you know, false leak. They were in on another alternative reality and I think it`s going to take some time for this to fully resonate that the president got elected in a campaign that is now being investigated by the FBI.
. . . there`s a very strong move to create an independent commission. . . an independent commission beyond their control. And so, they have to make some concessions at this point in time.
I mean, the thing I found stunning was that Chairman Nunes and none of the Republicans even went through the motions of denouncing Moscow`s meddling in the election and the hacking.
They just made believe as if none of that has happened, if there have been no intelligence community assessments and that the only terrible thing that has happened in the last year was that there was a leak about Michael Flynn lying to the vice president.
Pundit 3: Well, first of all, I thought it was very important that we make
it clear that Russia is an adversary and that is – underscores our concern
with them interfering with our elections.
And then you look at the web of relationships that exist in the Trump
administration, both during the campaign and now in the cabinet.
And it makes one a little uncomfortable that our adversary has such close
ties with so many people associated with President Trump.
STEVE BESHEAR, FMR. GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY: Well, it`s obvious that the
press has made Kentucky ground zero in this battle over the future of
healthcare in our country. I`m glad he has because he can come as many
times as he wants and it doesn`t change the facts of what has happened in
Kentucky. People now have coverage, over 500,000 of them that didn`t have
They`re accessing that care. They`re getting healthier and our economy is
benefiting from it. So it`s been a huge success story here and I`m glad
he`s calling attention to it because the people around this country need to
see that success story.
. . . about 24 million Americans are going to lose their healthcare coverage under this plan. And you know these are not some aliens from some distant planet. They`re our friends and neighbors.
You know, we – we go to church with them on Sunday we sit with the
bleachers with them on Friday night. And these folks before the affordable
care act got up and went to work every day just hoping and praying that
they didn`t get sick because they that they were just one bad diagnosis
away from bankruptcy.
And now with the affordable care act they`ve got the security knowing that
they can keep their families healthy. And it is unconscionable for people
to be thinking about throwing 24 million Americans out of healthcare