Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on June 8, 2017. Screenshot photo.
The attack on the 2016 US presidential election was directed from the highest levels of the Russian government, former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Thursday.
“It’s not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing,” he insisted. “It really is an American thing.” He said the ongoing FBI investigation into Russian efforts is important because “they are coming after America” and “they will be back.”
Comey made clear the severity of the Russian attack. He called it a “massive spearfishing campaign” that targeted “at least hundreds,” and perhaps “more than a thousand,” government and non-profit organizations.
“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever,” he said. “The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts,” and it was “driven from the top of that government.” He said each of these statements represents “a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community.”
In Comey’s estimate, the Russian efforts intended to “undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them, and so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible.”
In getting to the bottom of the matter, Comey told the committee that the special investigation, headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, has his full confidence. He said that the work of that investigation, in relation to the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is providing an important “model … that we are a functioning, adult democracy.”
Comey, who was called before the committee to detail his interactions with President Trump in relation to the investigation, said he believed the President had attempted to “create some sort of patronage relationship” with him, but that he did not believe Trump had asked him to stop the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the US election.
Comey said that Trump and members of his administration “chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI” in criticizing the conduct of the investigation after Trump fired Comey on May 9. “Those were lies plain and simple,” Comey said.
On the larger question of whether Trump might have broken the law in suggesting that Comey drop his investigation into former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Comey said, “I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the President was an attempt to obstruct.”