Donald Trump

‘No evidence yet’ of Trump-Russia election collusion, lawmaker says ahead of FBI chief’s testimony

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 3:51pm

A US congressional panel so far has found “no evidence” that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, its chairman said Sunday, ahead of highly anticipated testimony by the head of the FBI on the US president’s potential Russia ties.

Based on “everything I have up to this morning - no evidence of collusion,” by Trump’s team and Moscow, Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News on Sunday, describing documents delivered last week to the committee by the Justice Department and FBI.

Nunes made his remarks one day before Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey was to face lawmakers on the panel, amid speculation that Trump aides and associates - and perhaps even the businessman-turned-politician himself - may have maintained uncomfortably close ties with Moscow.

Intelligence officials have said that Russia was behind the theft of Democratic National Committee emails last summer. The US government later concluded that the Russian government directed the DNC hack in an attempt to influence the outcome of November’s presidential election.

“For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses,” Nunes said. “We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe.”

Nunes said the committee will examine whether the Russians were trying to sow doubt in the US electoral system or whether they were trying to help Trump get elected to the White House.

“We need to get to the bottom of that,” Nunes said.

The panel’s ranking Democrat said the material delivered to the committee last week offers circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election, without addressing the specific issue of whether those citizens were linked to the Trump campaign.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Representative Adam Schiff said. “There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Monday’s hearing was also expected to address a second explosive issue: Trump’s unsubstantiated accusations of wiretapping by Barack Obama - charges that have roiled political waters in Washington for the past two weeks.

Trump on March 4 tweeted that Obama had “tapped” his phone - a charge that has consumed political debate in the US capital.

Nunes and Schiff were among a number of lawmakers who said on Sunday’s news shows they had seen no evidence that the Obama administration ordered wiretaps on Trump during the campaign.

“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No there never was,” Nunes said. “The information we received Friday continues to lead us in that direction.”

Nunes added: “There was no FISA warrant I am aware of to tap Trump Tower.” FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires investigators to seek a warrant from a secret court to wiretap a foreign suspect.

The wiretapping issue mushroomed last month, when Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after it was revealed he had misled top officials over his contacts with Russia.

Around the same time, The New York Times reported that US intelligence agents had intercepted calls showing that members of Trump’s campaign had repeated contacts with top Russian intelligence officials in the year preceding the November 8 election.

Additional reporting by Associated Press