March 20, 2017 HPSCI Hearing on Russian Active Measures Investigation

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) will be holding an open hearing on its investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign.

The hearing will be held at 10:00 am on Monday, March 20 in room 1100 of the Longworth Building. It will be livestreamed on the HPSCI website here.

Who:                   House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI)

What:                  Hearing on Russian active measures investigation (Open)

When:                 Monday, March 20, 2017, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm ET

Where:                Room 1100, Longworth Building

The hearing witnesses include:

  • James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency

March 20, 2017

Chairman Nunes Opening Statement

Open Hearing on Investigation of Russian Active Measures

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

The Putin regime has a long history of aggressive actions against other countries, including the outright invasion of two of its neighbors in recent years as well as its brutal military action in Syria to defend the Assad regime. But its hostile acts take many forms aside from direct military assaults.

For example, the Kremlin is waging an international disinformation campaign through the RT propaganda network, which traffics in anti-American conspiracy theories that rival the extravagant untruths of Soviet-era Pravda. Russia also has a long history of meddling in other countries’ election systems and launching cyber- attacks on a wide range of countries and industries. The Baltics and other Russian neighbors have long decried these attacks, but their warnings went unheeded in far too many nations’ capitals, including our own.

The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this Committee, which has been closely monitoring Russia’s aggression for years. A year ago I stated publicly that our inability to predict the Putin regime’s plans and intentions has been “the biggest intelligence failure that we’ve had since 9/11,” and that remains my view today. However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear—it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could “reset” relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.

I hope today’s hearing will shed light on three important focus points of this Committee’s investigation of Russian active measures.

1. What actions did Russia undertake against the United States during the 2016 election campaign, and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said publicly he’s seen no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and I can say that the Committee, too, has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents. However, we will continue to investigate this question.

2. Were the communications of officials or associates of any campaign subject to any kind of improper surveillance? The Intelligence Community has extremely strict procedures for handling information pertaining to any U.S. citizens who are subject even to incidental surveillance, and this Committee wants to ensure all surveillance activities have followed all relevant laws, rules, and regulations. Let me be clear: we know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.

3. Who has leaked classified information? Numerous current and former officials have leaked purportedly classified information in connection to these questions. We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice.

I hope that this Committee’s bipartisan investigation will result in a definitive report on the Russian actions taken during the election campaign. To that end, we encourage anyone who has information about these topics to come forward and speak to the Committee. I again thank the witnesses for helping to shed light on these issues.

And with that, I recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Schiff, for five minutes, for any opening comments he would like to make.


Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Schiff Opening Statement During Hearing on Russian Active Measures

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered the following statement during the Committee’s open hearing on Russian active measures during the 2016 election. Below is his statement (as prepared):

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

I want to thank Director Comey and Admiral Rogers for appearing before us today as the committee holds this first open hearing into the interference campaign waged against our 2016 Presidential election. 

Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested and hugely consequential Presidential campaign, a foreign, adversarial power intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other. That foreign adversary was, of course, Russia, and it acted through its intelligence agencies and upon the direct instructions of its autocratic ruler, Vladimir Putin, in order to help Donald J. Trump become the 45th President of the United States.

The Russian “active measures” campaign may have begun as early as 2015, when Russian intelligence services launched a series of spearphishing attacks designed to penetrate the computers of a broad array of Washington-based Democratic and Republican party organizations, think tanks and other entities.  This continued at least through winter of 2016. 

While at first, the hacking may have been intended solely for the collection of foreign intelligence, in mid-2016, the Russians “weaponized” the stolen data and used platforms established by their intel services, such as DC Leaks and existing third party channels like Wikileaks, to dump the documents.  

The stolen documents were almost uniformly damaging to the candidate Putin despised, Hillary Clinton and, by forcing her campaign to constantly respond to the daily drip of disclosures, the releases greatly benefited Donald Trump’s campaign. 

None of these facts is seriously in question and they are reflected in the consensus conclusions of all our intelligence agencies.

We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed, it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again. 

Ours is not the first democracy to be attacked by the Russians in this way. Russian intelligence has been similarly interfering in the internal and political affairs of our European and other allies for decades. What is striking here is the degree to which the Russians were willing to undertake such an audacious and risky action against the most powerful nation on earth. That ought to be a warning to us, that if we thought that the Russians would not dare to so blatantly interfere in our affairs, we were wrong. And 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 in the future, we will have only ourselves to blame.

We know a lot about the Russian operation, about the way they amplified the damage their hacking and dumping of stolen documents was causing through the use of slick propaganda like RT, the Kremlin’s media arm. But there is also a lot we do not know.

Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the President himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, 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.

In Europe, where the Russians have a much longer history of political interference, they have used a variety of techniques to undermine democracy.  They have employed the hacking and dumping of documents and slick propaganda as they clearly did here, but they have also used bribery, blackmail, compromising material, and financial entanglement to secure needed cooperation from individual citizens of targeted countries.

The issue of U.S. person involvement is only one of the important matters that the Chairman and I have agreed to investigate and which is memorialized in the detailed and bipartisan scope of investigation we have signed. We will also examine whether the intelligence community’s public assessment of the Russian operation is supported by the raw intelligence, whether the U.S. Government responded properly or missed the opportunity to stop this Russian attack much earlier, and whether the leak of information about Michael Flynn or others is indicative of a systemic problem. We have also reviewed whether there was any evidence to support President Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama in Trump Tower – and found no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous accusation – and we hope that Director Comey can now put that matter permanently to rest.

Today, most of my Democratic colleagues will be exploring with you the potential involvement of U.S. persons in the Russian attack on our democracy. It is not that we feel the other issues are not important – they are very important – but rather because this issue is least understood by the public. We realize, of course, that you may not be able to answer many of our questions in open session. You may or may not be willing to disclose even whether there is any investigation. But we hope to present to you and the public why we believe this matter is of such gravity that it demands a thorough investigation, not only by us, as we intend to do, but by the FBI as well.

Let me give you a little preview of what I expect you will be asked by our members. 

Whether the Russian active measures campaign began as nothing more than an attempt to gather intelligence, or was always intended to be more than that, we do not know, and is one of the questions we hope to answer. But we do know this: the months of July and August 2016 appear to have been pivotal. It was at this time that the Russians began using the information they had stolen to help Donald Trump and harm Hillary Clinton. And so the question is why? What was happening in July/August of last year? And were U.S. persons involved? 

Here are some of the matters, drawn from public sources alone, since that is all we can discuss in this setting, that concern us and should concern all Americans.

In early July, Carter Page, someone candidate Trump identified as one of his national security advisors, travels to Moscow on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech critical of the United States and other western countries for what he believes is a hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption.  

According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin (SEH-CHIN), CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a former KGB agent and close friend of Putin’s. According to Steele’s Russian sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company. According to Reuters, the sale of a 19.5 percent share in Rosneft later takes place, with unknown purchasers and unknown brokerage fees.  

Also, according to Steele’s Russian sources, the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks.  The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share – policies which, even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass.

In the middle of July, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager and someone who was long on the payroll of Pro-Russian Ukrainian interests, attends the Republican Party convention. Carter Page, back from Moscow, also attends the convention.  According to Steele, it was Manafort who chose Page to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign and Russian interests. Ambassador Kislyak, who presides over a Russian embassy in which diplomatic personnel would later be expelled as likely spies, also attends the Republican Party convention and meets with Carter Page and additional Trump Advisors JD Gordon and Walid Phares. It was JD Gordon who approved Page’s trip to Moscow. Ambassador Kislyak also meets with Trump campaign national security chair and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions would later deny meeting with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed, removing a section that supports the provision of “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian interests. Manafort categorically denies involvement by the Trump campaign in altering the platform. But the Republican Party delegate who offered the language in support of providing defensive weapons to Ukraine states that it was removed at the insistence of the Trump campaign. Later, JD Gordon admits opposing the inclusion of the provision at the time it was being debated and prior to its being removed.

Later in July, and after the convention, the first stolen emails detrimental to Hillary Clinton appear on Wikileaks. A hacker who goes by the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claims responsibility for hacking the DNC and giving the documents to Wikileaks. But leading private cyber security firms including CrowdStrike, Mandiant, and ThreatConnect review the evidence of the hack and conclude with high certainty that it was the work of APT28 and APT29, who were known to be Russian intelligence services. The U.S. Intelligence community also later confirms that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence and Guccifer 2.0 acted as a front. Also in late July, candidate Trump praises Wikileaks, says he loves them, and openly appeals to the Russians to hack his opponents’ emails, telling them that they will be richly rewarded by the press.

On August 8th, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor and self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech that he “has communicated with Assange,” and that more documents would be coming, including an “October surprise.” In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cutout Guccifer 2.0, and authors a Breitbart piece denying Guccifer’s links to Russian intelligence. Then, later in August, Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that John Podesta’s personal emails will soon be published. “Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel. #Crooked Hillary.”

In the weeks that follow, Stone shows a remarkable prescience: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. #Lockherup. “Payload coming,” he predicts, and two days later, it does. Wikileaks releases its first batch of Podesta emails. The release of John Podesta’s emails would then continue on a daily basis up to election day.

On Election Day in November, Donald Trump wins.  Donald Trump appoints one of his high profile surrogates, Michael Flynn, to be his national security advisor. Michael Flynn has been paid by the Kremlin’s propaganda outfit, RT, and other Russian entities in the past. In December, Michael Flynn has a secret conversation with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia over its hacking designed to help the Trump campaign. Michael Flynn lies about this secret conversation.  The Vice President, unknowingly, then assures the country that no such conversation ever happened.  The President is informed Flynn has lied, and Pence has misled the country. The President does nothing. Two weeks later, the press reveals that Flynn has lied and the President is forced to fire Mr. Flynn. The President then praises the man who lied, Flynn, and castigates the press for exposing the lie.

Now, 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, not only at the convention, but a more private meeting in his office and at a time when the U.S. election was under attack by the Russians? 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 the Russian gas company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British Intelligence Officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size? Is it a coincidence that Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass? Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be the victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that his private emails would be exposed? 

Is it possible that 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 have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.

Director Comey, what you see on the dais in front of you, in the form of this small number of members and staff is all we have to commit to this investigation. This is it. We are not supported by hundreds or thousands of agents and investigators, with offices around the world. It is just us and our Senate counterparts. And in addition to this investigation, we still have our day job, which involves overseeing some of the largest and most important agencies in the country, agencies, which, by the way, are trained to keep secrets.  

I point this out for two reasons: First, because we cannot do this work alone. Nor should we. We believe these issues are so important that the FBI must devote its resources to investigating each of them thoroughly; to do any less would be negligent in the protection of our country. We also need your full cooperation with our own investigation, so that we have the benefit of what you may know, and so that we may coordinate our efforts in the discharge of both our responsibilities. And second, I raise this because I believe that we would benefit from the work of an independent commission that can devote the staff and resources to this investigation that we do not have, and that can be completely removed from any political considerations. This should not be a substitute for the work that we, in the intelligence committees should and must do, but as an important complement to our efforts, just as was the case after 9/11. 

The stakes are nothing less than the future of liberal democracy.

We are engaged in a new war of ideas, not communism versus capitalism, but authoritarianism versus democracy and representative government. And in this struggle, our adversary sees our political process as a legitimate field of battle.

Only by understanding what the Russians did can we inoculate ourselves from the further Russian interference we know is coming. Only then can we help protect our European allies who are, as we speak, enduring similar Russian interference in their own elections. 

Finally, I want to say a word about our own committee investigation. You will undoubtedly observe in the questions and comments that our members make during today's hearing, that the members of both parties share a common concern over the Russian attack on our democracy, but bring a different perspective on the significance of certain issues, or the quantum of evidence we have seen in the earliest stages of this investigation.  That is to be expected.  The question most people have is whether we can really conduct this investigation in the kind of thorough and nonpartisan manner that the seriousness of the issues merit, or whether the enormous political consequences of our work will make that impossible. The truth is, I don’t know the answer. But I do know this: If this committee can do its work properly, if we can pursue the facts wherever they lead, unafraid to compel witnesses to testify, to hear what they have to say, to learn what we will and, after exhaustive work, reach a common conclusion, it would be a tremendous public service and one that is very much in the national interest. 

So let us try. Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.



HPSCI Hearing Titled Russian Active Measures Investigation

James B. Comey


Federal Bureau of Investigation

Statement Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI)

Washington, D.C.

March 20, 2017

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Schiff, members of the committee, thank you for including me in today’s hearing. I'm honored to be here representing the people of the FBI.

I hope we have shown you through our actions and our words how much we at the FBI value your oversight of our work and how much we respect your responsibility to investigate those things that are important to the American people. Thank you for showing that both are being taken very seriously.

As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters, but in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so as Justice Department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances.

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

Because it is an open, ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining. At the request of congressional leaders, we have taken the extraordinary step in coordination with the Department of Justice of briefing this Congress' leaders, including the leaders of this committee, in a classified setting in detail about the investigation, but I can't go into those details here.

I know that is extremely frustrating to some folks. But it is the way it has to be for reasons that I hope you and the American people can understand. The FBI is very careful in how we handle information about our cases and about the people we are investigating. We are also very careful about the way we handle information that may be of interest to our foreign adversaries. Both of those interests are at issue in a counterintelligence investigation. Please don't draw any conclusions from the fact that I may not be able to comment on certain topics. I know speculating is part of human nature, but it really isn't fair to draw conclusions simply because I say that I can't comment.

Some folks may want to make comparisons to past instances where the Department of Justice and the FBI have spoken about the details of some investigations, but please keep in mind that those involved the details of completed investigations. Our ability to share details with the Congress and the American people is limited when those investigations are still open, which I hope makes sense. We need to protect people’s privacy. We need to make sure we don't give other people clues as to where we're going. We need to make sure that we don't give information to our foreign adversaries about what we know or don't know. We just cannot do our work well or fairly if we start talking about it while we're doing it. So we will try very, very hard to avoid that, as we always do.

This work is very complex and there is no way for me to give you a timetable as to when it will be done. We approach this work in an open-minded, independent way and our expert investigators will conclude that work as quickly as they can, but they will always do it well no matter how long that takes. I can promise you, we will follow the facts wherever they lead. And I want to underscore something my friend Mike Rogers said—leaks of classified information are serious, serious federal crimes for a reason. They should be investigated and, where possible, prosecuted in a way that reflects that seriousness so that people understand it simply cannot be tolerated.

And I look forward to taking your questions.

See also: C-SPAN

Excerpt from Daily Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 3/20/2017

James S. Brady Briefing Room

And finally, I want to address the House Intelligence Committee hearing that is currently happening in which the FBI director and the NSA director are currently testifying and comment to the extent that I can at this time. 

This hearing, as Chairman Nunes noted, is the first of several that the House Intelligence Committee is engaged in, and the President is happy that they’re pursuing the facts in this.  As has been previously reported, Director Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating Russia’s role in interfering with the election.  And let me just comment briefly on that.

Following this testimony, it’s clear that nothing has changed.  Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm that there is no evidence of a Trump-Russia collusion.  The Obama CIA director said so, Obama’s director of national intelligence said so, and we take them at their word.

However, there was some new information that came from the hearing that we believe is newsworthy about the intelligence-gathering process and the unmasking of Americans identified in intelligence reports, and the illegal leak of such unmasked individuals, which is a federal crime.  

Director Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that certain political appointees in the Obama administration had access to the names of unmasked U.S. citizens, such as senior White House officials, senior Department of Justice officials, and senior intelligence officials.

 Before President Obama left office, Michael Flynn was unmasked and then illegally his identify was leaked out to media outlets, despite the fact that, as NSA Director Rogers said, that unmasking and revealing individuals endangers “national security."

Not only was General Flynn’s identify made available, Director Comey refused to answer the question of whether or not he’d actually briefed President Obama on his phone calls and activities.  Director Comey called these types of disclosures of classified information a threat to national security, and said he will investigate and pursue these matters to the full extent of law.  

He also said that the leaking of classified information had become “unusually active” in the timeframe in question.  It’s also important to note that both Directors Comey and Rogers told the committee that they have no evidence that votes were changed in the swing states the President had won. 

I think that pretty much, until we get the ending of this hearing -- I don’t know that I want to comment too much further.  And with that, I’d be glad to take a few questions.

Q    Sean, does the President still have complete confidence in FBI Director Comey?

MR. SPICER:  There’s no reason to believe he doesn’t at this time.  

Q    You said -- wait, hold on --

MR. SPICER:  I answered you.

Q    He said that there is no information to support the allegations that the President made against President Obama.

MR. SPICER:  At this time.

Q    So is the President prepared to withdraw that accusation and apologize to the President?

MR. SPICER:  No, we started a hearing.  It’s still ongoing.  And, as Chairman Nunes mentioned, this is one in a series of hearings that will be happening.  As I noted last week, there’s also a lot of interesting news coming out of that in terms of the activities that have gone on to reveal the information on American citizens that have been part of this, particularly General Flynn.  There’s a lot of things that aren’t being covered in this hearing that I think are interesting that -- since it’s ongoing, I’ll leave that for now.  But I think there’s a lot of areas that still need to be covered.  There’s a lot of information that still needs to be discussed.

Q    The director also said he’s investigating the links and the possibility of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Given that the President just this morning said that the Democrats made up the Russia story, why would the FBI director be investigating a story if it’s simply --

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think that’s what he said.  But again, look at what --

Q    No, no, he did.  He said that he’s investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether or not there was any coordination.

MR. SPICER:  Correct.  But again, investigating it and having proof of it are two different things.  If you look at the acting Obama CIA director, he said that there’s smoke but there’s no fire.  Senator Tom Cotton -- "Not that I’ve seen and not that I’m aware of."  You look at Director Clapper -- “Not to my knowledge.”  Senator Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware -- “I have no evidence of collusion.”

There’s a point at which you continue to search for something that everybody who’s been briefed hasn’t seen or found.  I think it’s fine to look into it, but at the end of the day, they’re going to come to the same conclusion that everybody else has had.  So you can continue to look for something, but continuing to look for something that doesn’t exist doesn’t matter.
There is a discussion -- I heard some names thrown around before -- that were hangers-on or on the campaign, and I think at some point people that got thrown around at the beginning of this hearing, some of those names, the greatest amount of interaction that they’ve had has had cease-and-desist letters sent to them.  

Q    You’re talking about the Roger Stones and the Carter Pages.

MR. SPICER:  Exactly, the Carter Pages, yes.  But those people, the greatest amount of interaction that they had with the campaign was the campaign apparently sending them a series of cease-and-desist letters.  So again, I think that when you read a lot of this activity about associates, there is a fine line between people who want to be part of something that they never had an official role in, and people who actually played a role in either the campaign or the transition.

Q    Sean, I just had two quick questions on the hearing today.  Does the President -- now that we know there is an ongoing investigation by the FBI -- does the President stand by his comments that he is not aware of any contacts that his campaign associates had with Russia during the election?


Q    And then the second one is:  Has anyone from the White House --

MR. SPICER:  Well, can I just amend the first one?

Q    Sure.

MR. SPICER:  Obviously, just to be clear, I know that -- I’m trying to think through this for a second, because obviously General Flynn -- but again --

Q    Right, particularly during the campaign, before the election.  

MR. SPICER:  Right.  And I’m not aware of any at this time. But even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign, and then obviously there’s been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.  But beyond --

Q    He was the chairman of the campaign --

MR. SPICER:  Hey, Jonathan, hold on.  Can you stop interrupting other people’s questions?

Q    (Inaudible) played a limited role -- 

MR. SPICER:  Hey, Jonathan, somebody is asking a question.  It’s not your press briefing.  Julie is asking a question.  Please calm down.  Julie.

Q    Are you saying then that the President is aware of contacts that Manafort had during the campaign?

MR. SPICER:  No, no, nothing that hasn’t been previously discussed.  I just don’t want to make it look like we’re not aware of the stuff that’s --

Q    Understood.  And then the second thing is, anyone from the White House, up to the President, been interviewed by the FBI as part of this investigation?

MR. SPICER:  Not that I’m aware of.  

Q    You said that -- you made a point of saying that Comey refused to say whether he had briefed Obama about the investigation.  And also, the President, on his official account, tweeted the same thing today.  Comey made a point today of saying, please do not draw any conclusions from my ability to confirm or deny anything, but you are drawing a conclusion from that.

MR. SPICER:  Well, I think we’re pointing it out.  I mean, we’re making a point that it is not known.  And I think there’s further -- I mean, to everyone who was looking for a conclusion today, I think there’s a lot more that needs to be discussed and looked at before we can jump to a conclusion about -- 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. SPICER:  Hold on.  But I think the point is, is that, in the same token you’ve got individuals
that want an answer, and at the same time, there’s clearly a lot of information that still hasn’t come out or been discussed.

Q    So you’re looking forward to this investigation --

MR. SPICER:  I think that we are -- there is a lot more to come is the answer that I --

Q    But the reason that I’m asking this question is you said that they are going to come to the same conclusion of everybody else.

MR. SPICER:  My point is, is that --

Q    So you already know what the conclusion is?

MR. SPICER:  No, no, no.  What I’m getting at is that there is this continuous -- there is this media narrative that continues to talk about collusion that exists, and yet every person that's been briefed -- Nunes; Tom Cotton; Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware; Clapper, the Obama appointee -- have all said that nothing that they've seen makes them believe that there was any collusion.  

And I think there’s a difference between talking about an investigation into the 2016 election, which we all know, and any evidence of collusion.  There is no evidence, according to the people that have been briefed, of any collusion or activity that leads them to believe that that exists.  I think that is an important point that gets overlooked over and over and over again.  

Q   Right, but you said it’s fine to look into it, but they are going to come to the same conclusion of everybody else -- that this collusion doesn’t exist.  So you already know --

MR. SPICER:  No, I don’t.  What I’m --

Q    -- investigation is finished -- 

MR. SPICER:  No, no, that’s not what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is, is that every single person -- because what the director said today is that there's an ongoing investigation.  My point is to say that everybody who's been briefed on that investigation -- it doesn’t -- there is an assumption that because there is an investigation, it must mean that it’s about something.  
My point to you is that there is an assumption on behalf of most people in the media about what that investigation must mean.  And my point to you is, is that, despite the narrative that gets played over and over again with respect to what the investigation might mean in terms of collusion, every person, Republican and Democrat, that has been briefed on it has come to the same conclusion that there is no collusion and that that’s over.  

So while we can talk about an investigation, big-picture holistically, the idea that so many people are trying to jump to a conclusion seems very, very misguided.