Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Democrats grill FBI head Comey

NY Times News Service, WASHINGTON

The US’ intelligence chiefs on Friday sat down with members of US Congress behind closed doors for what they thought would be a straightforward briefing on Russian cyberattacks. What ensued instead was a confrontation US Democrats have long sought with FBI Director James Comey.

The Democrats asked why did Comey believe it was all right to make repeated disclosures during the campaign about an investigation into former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mails, but refuses to say if the FBI is investigating links between US president-elect Donald Trump and Russia.

His answers did not prove very satisfying. US Representative Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, grew so frustrated that at one point she chastised Comey for being “condescending to members.”

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was chairwoman of the US Democratic National Committee when it was hacked, asked why Comey had never called her about the intrusions, which began in August 2015 and continued for many months.

The FBI notified the committee of the original hacking, but reached a low-level tech support contractor and went back and forth with him for months before the leadership of the organization was informed and took steps to halt the intrusion.

The hearing took place a day after the US Department of Justice’s inspector general said it was investigating Comey’s decision during the campaign to hold a news conference announcing the end of the case — and then, just before the election, inform Congress there was possible new evidence, only to say days later that it did not amount to anything.

The reaction to an assessment by intelligence agencies that Russia sought to promote Trump’s candidacy has been mixed. Trump has seen it as undermining his electoral victory and ridiculed the agencies, accusing them this week of using leaks to discredit him after it briefed him on a dossier of unsubstantiated reports of compromising personal information the Russians allegedly collected.

However, on Friday, US Senator Richard Burr, chairman US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced that the committee would hold hearings on the Russian activity and its effect on the election.

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