Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Wednesday evening said that he has seen evidence that is “more than circumstantial” of collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and Russia. Schiff: Evidence Of Trump Camp Russia Collusion ‘More Than Circumstantial‘:
“I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now,” Schiff said on MSNBC after host Chuck Todd noted the congressman’s comment on Sunday that there is “circumstantial evidence of collusion.”
“You have seen direct evidence of collusion?” Todd then asked Schiff.
“I don’t want to go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial, and is very much worthy of investigation. So that is what we ought to do,” Schiff replied.
CNN reported later on Wednesday night that the FBI has evidence that may show that Trump associates communicated with Russian officials about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, citing unnamed U.S. officials. US officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”
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One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests “people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready.” But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it’s premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it’s largely circumstantial.
The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.
The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates — Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page — for contacts with Russians known to US intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts and CNN has not confirmed any of them are the subjects of the information the FBI is reviewing.
One of the obstacles the sources say the FBI now faces in finding conclusive intelligence is that communications between Trump’s associates and Russians have ceased in recent months given the public focus on Russia’s alleged ties to the Trump campaign. Some Russian officials have also changed their methods of communications, making monitoring more difficult, the officials said.
Last July, Russian intelligence agencies began orchestrating the release of hacked emails stolen in a breach of the Democratic National Committee and associated organizations, as well as email accounts belonging to Clinton campaign officials, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.
The Russian operation was also in part focused on the publication of so-called “fake news” stories aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But FBI investigators say they are less focused on the coordination and publication of those “fake news” stories, in part because those publications are generally protected free speech.
The release of the stolen emails, meanwhile, transformed an ordinary cyber-intrusion investigation into a much bigger case handled by the FBI’s counterintelligence division.
FBI counterintelligence investigations are notoriously lengthy and often involve some of the U.S. government’s most highly classified programs, such as those focused on intelligence-gathering, which can make it difficult for investigators to bring criminal charges without exposing those programs.
Investigators continue to analyze the material and information from multiple sources for any possible indications of coordination, according to US officials. Director Comey in Monday’s hearing refused to reveal what specifically the FBI was looking for or who they’re focusing on.
US officials said the information was not drawn from the leaked dossier of unverified information compiled by a former British intelligence official compiled for Trump’s political opponents, though the dossier also suggested coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russian operatives.
Counterintelligence investigations take a long time, partly because the intelligence agencies need to protect methods and sources, and partly because it involves searching through electronic communications and data from numerous sources. This cloud of suspicion over the Trump administration is not going away anytime soon.
As for the dog and pony show put on byHouse Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes on Wednesday, disclosing classified information the subject of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation, Rep. Cummings: Nunes should be investigated:
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday called for an investigation into House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, who on Wednesday personally briefed President Donald Trump and announced publicly that a source showed him evidence that the Obama administration had inadvertently collected surveillance on members of the Trump transition team.
“What he has done is he’s scuttled, and put a cloud over, his own investigation, and he has become the subject —basically, he should be — of an investigation,” Cummings said on CNN Thursday morning. “It’s a real problem.”
Cummings, a Democrat, is one of several Democratic legislators who have rebuked Nunes, a Trump ally in charge of leading the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. Cummings criticized Nunes for not informing other members of the House Intelligence Committee of the evidence Nunes said he had obtained, and said Nunes’ conduct threatened the integrity of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible relationship with Russian intelligence.
Cummings’ comments are similar to ones made by House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, who during a press conference Wednesday night said that Nunes’ behavior casted “great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.”
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Cummings, who served as a ranking minority member of the special committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack on the Benghazi beginning in 2012, told CNN host Chris Cuomo that the Benghazi committee “would have never allowed” for a member to go directly to the president and to the press about information without informing the committee first.
“The intelligence committee is a very special committee,” Cummings said. “They are privy to information that most members of Congress may never see, and so you expect them to be extremely confidential.
As I said yesterday, Nunes should be removed as chair of the House Intelligence Committee and referred to the FBI for disclosing classified information. If that classified information was part of the ongoing counterintelligence investigation, and he shared confidential information with the target of that investigation — the Trump administration — he should also be investigated for obstruction of justice.