The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing today to begin the process of investigating allegations of the Trump campaign having possible ties to the known Russian interference with Elections 2016. This hearing followed several meetings last week between Congressional members of the same committee and FBI Director James Comey. In those meetings last week, James Comey discussed Donald Trump and possible collusion with Russia to interfere with Elections 2016.
James Comey testified today on Donald Trump, his campaigns, and campaign members, and how they may be connected to the Russian interference of Elections 2016. He could not say much, frequently citing "ongoing investigations."
However, last week, Congress member Rep. Jackie Speier, of the same committee in hearings today, openly discussed what she learned in the meeting with James Comey on Donald Trump, and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. She told MSNBC, "This is as big, if not bigger, than Watergate."
Occupy Democrats reports that Rep. Speier also said the consequences of what she has learned are grounds for impeachment.
Rep. Speier also discussed "circumstantial evidence" that connects dots between Trump and Russia.
"There is circumstantial evidence of an entire web that Putin put in place ensnaring many of the people who now have very respected positions within the U.S. Cabinet."The Hill reported on Twitter that ahead of today's hearing, senators from the Senate Intelligence Committee also met with FBI Director Comey this past Wednesday. This meeting occurred in a basement room in the Capitol building noted as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, also known as an SCIF.
Meetings in the SCIF are highly sensitive and classified, and by invitation only. Often the staff of the representatives asked to attend such a meeting do not even know their representative is attending the meeting until after the fact, nor does the public. Attending this meeting were all Democrat senators, including Senator Feinstein, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Warren, and Senator Grassley.
After the meeting with James Comey on Donald Trump and his campaign, Senator Dianne Feinstein appeared visibly rattled. At a presser two days following the meeting, Politico reports that she would not answer questions about whether or not this would lead to a Trump impeachment, but said, "I think he's gonna get himself out."
Politico notes that Senator Feinstein "seemed to indicate" that Trump would "get himself out" over potential breaches of the Constitution, and also personal and business conflicts of interest. Senator Feinstein was asked specifically about Donald Trump's alleged conflicts of interest, which include profiting from his Mar-A-Lago resort while conducting government business.
The Inquisitr recently reported on those numbers, showing that this weekend alone, Donald Trump spent over six million dollars of taxpayer dollars to go to Mar-A-Lago. Anytime he is there, Trump profits because it is his business. The membership fees for-Mar-A-Lago were 100 thousand per member before Inauguration Day and doubled to 200 thousand after he took the oath.
This means that every time he is away at Mar-A-Lago, America foots the bill while he profits. When Senator Feinstein was asked if any of these allegations were impeachable offenses, the senator could not say no. She said, "I can't answer that right now."
She then hinted at bills that are currently being filed by Democrats in the house right now that would police Trump's conflicts of interest. She also said,
"I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expense, I believe those government expenses should not be allowed."Senator Feinstein was referring to a business trip taking by Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, sons of Donald Trump, where they went to Dubai to open a new golf club. That trip was paid for by American tax dollars.
This was the lead up to today's hearing with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Congress member Rep. Adam Schiff appeared on "CBS This Morning" in his only interview before the hearings. After his interview, he tweeted a clip of the interview with one statement.
"Here's where we begin our investigation into Russian interference – with circumstantial evidence of collusion & direct evidence of deception."[embed]https://twitter.com/CBSThisMorning/status/843782214152282113[/embed]
The hearing then opened today with a brief opening by Rep. Nunes to discuss what the intent of today's hearing was. Today's hearing was about determining what active measures Russia undertook during Elections 2016 and did these actions collude with any of the election campaigns, either Donald Trump's or Hillary Clinton's.
The subject of wiretapping was also a critical component of today's hearing, as was the leaking of any information that may be classified. Rep. Schiff stated in his opening,
"If we do not do our very best to understand how the Russians accomplished this unprecedented attack on our democracy, and what we need to do to protect ourselves, we will only have ourselves to blame."The hearing, which was live streamed on YouTube, also discussed the variety of active measures that Russia definitively undertook during the campaign. The active measures included hacking of documents and document dumps through websites such as Wiki Leaks. The active measures known as bribing and blackmail as commonly used by Russians was also discussed in the opening of the hearing, but was discussed as a general active measure and not a known active measure in this situation.
The Washington Post reports that Rep. Schiff also described that if any of the allegations about Trump and Russia were true, it would be a shocking betrayal of democracy.
"If the Trump campaign or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history."Rep. Adam Schiff then continued his opening statement, connecting many dots to support his earlier statements of evidence of circumstantial evidence and collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He stated that we do know that Russia engaged in intelligence gathering, to support one campaign over another.
He pointed to the months of July and August 2016, stating that, "This is when Russians began using information to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. The question is why, and were Americans involved."
Rep. Schiff then connected the dots with some key players identified to be critical components of the collusion. The Inquisitr has covered these key players on the Trump Russia scandal previously. Rep. Schiff started with Carter Page attending a trip to Moscow in early July, a trip that was approved by the Trump campaign. During that meeting, he attended secret meetings with Russian gas giants and was paid for them.
Carter Page was a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign at the time. By mid-July 2016, Rep. Schiff said, Paul Manafort and former campaign manager to Trump, attends the Republican National Convention with Carter Page. Russian ambassador also attended the Republican National Convention.
It was at this point that the platform for Donald Trump was modified to include a discussion of weapons to the Ukraine. Paul Manafort would later deny he had anything to do with that.
After the Republican National Convention, and during the Democratic National Convention, the first set of stolen emails appeared. After the DNC was illegally hacked, those emails appeared illegally on Wiki Leaks. A hacker known as Guccifer takes responsibility.
Rep. Schiff continued saying that by late July, Donald Trump was praising Wiki Leaks and telling Russia that if they hacked Hillary Clinton, they would be richly rewarded by the press.
Admiral Michael Rogers of the NSA was the first witness to offer an opening statement. FBI Director James Comey then gave his. FBI Director James Comey discussed Donald Trump's wiretapping claims against President Obama, saying the entire Department of Justice, including every branch, did not find any evidence of Trump's allegations against President Obama.
Washington Post reports that James Comey said Donald Trump campaign and any possible links between the Kremlin were being investigated. James Comey also said that there was a counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump campaign and it's possible collusion with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election.
Normally, James Comey could not comment on Donald Trump or any open investigation. He testified he was given special authorization to do so in this case, due to the strong public interest.
Rep. Adam Schiff also said today that there is "circumstantial evidence of collusion" and also "direct evidence" of deception. The deception Adam Schiff refers to is that key members of the Trump campaign and transition team intentionally deceived of their contacts with Russia. He said today the most public example he could give was Michael Flynn, but did also refer to "members of the campaign" in the plural sense.
The example he used of Michael Flynn was the contact that Michael Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, in a series of four phone calls. Generally, this would not be illegal. However, Michael Flynn intentionally sought to keep those calls private and did not disclose those as required.
NSA Director Admiral Michael Rose testified today, that all members of his staff, and anyone else in the intelligence community are legally and ethically bound to disclose contact with foreign nationals.
FBI Director James Comey then answered to Donald Trump's wiretapping allegations. Rep. Schiff asked James Comey if he was engaging in "McCarthyism" as Donald Trump accused. James Comey said, "I try very hard not to engage in any isms of any kind."
Then, Rep. Schiff asked Comey to confirm that Trump accused President Obama of a scandal of Watergate proportions. Comey confirmed the accusation existed.
Schiff then underwent a brief history of Watergate, and how that was about the DNC being broken into, and ultimately followed up with a presidential cover up. James Comey confirmed that yes this was the case.
Rep. Schiff then asked James Comey to reiterate that in Elections 2016, the DNC was "broken into" by a Russian hack and that this then was covered up. James Comey confirmed that yes this was the case. James Comey was then asked about the intentions of Russia, and when the clear preference for Donald Trump began.
James Comey was not sure, but said that "it was a fairly easy judgment for the community." The hearing is continuing live into the afternoon, and more hearings are expected to continue next week.
James Comey refused to answer many questions, which appeared to frustrate the Republicans on committee, including Trey Gowdy who at one point rolled his eyes during questioning of James Comey.
It was clearly confirmed in the hearing that Russia is an enemy of the state. James Comey did confirm a Donald Trump campaign investigation during the hearing investigating election interference and collusion. Beyond that, James Comey is not saying Donald Trump's name, or Michael Flynn's, or Roger Stone's, any time today. And he won't say why.
[Feature Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]