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Inside Politics

The House Questions Director Comey and Admiral RogersAbout Russian Involvement in US Election. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 20, 2017 - 12:30   ET



KING: Well, if they're listening, I would just advise that Director Clapper and Director Brennan, we'll be asking them the same questions last week -- next week and perhaps, they can give us some answers.

Mr. Chairman, I -- I yield back.

NUNES: Gentleman yields back...


KING: Thank you. Thank you for testifying.

NUNES: Mr. Lobiondo is recognized.

LOBIONDO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Director Comey, Admiral Rogers, thank you for your service and thank you for being here. Understanding that what both of you have been saying about the classified nature of the investigation, the classified nature of the topics we're talking about, can you give us any indication of when we, the committee, may in a classified setting know something from you. Would we have ongoing updates?

COMEY: Mr. LoBiondo, I don't know how long the work will take. I can't commit to updates, as you know. I have briefed the committee as a whole on some aspects of our work and I've briefed in great detail the chair and the ranking.

I don't know -- I can't -- I can't predict or commit to updates. But as your work goes on, we're in constant touch with you and we'll do the best we can, but I can't commit to that as I sit here.

LOBIONDO: So as the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee are conducting our bipartisan investigations and looking wherever it may lead with individuals or circumstances.

If you, through the FBI investigation, come across a circumstance with an individual or a situation would we be made aware of that under normal course of business?

COMEY: Not necessarily, but it's possible. LOBIONDO: OK. So can you, either Director Comey or Admiral Rogers,

tell us what we are doing or what we should be doing to protect against Russian interference in future elections or any meddling with our government or for that matter any state sponsor Iranians, North Koreans, Chinese, with any -- any meddling they may be doing?

ROGERS: So first, I think a public discussion and acknowledgment of the activity is a good positive first step because it shines us a flashlight on this, if you will. It illuminates a significant issue that I think we all have to -- have to deal with. There's a variety ongoing efforts both within the government, as well, in the private sector.

In terms of how we harden our defenses, I think we also need to have a discussion about just what for example, does critical infrastructure meeting in the 21st-century. I don't think we traditionally would have thought of an election infrastructure as critical. We traditionally viewed critical infrastructure as something that generated an industrial output, aviation, electricity, finance, I don't think we've traditionally thought about it and informational kind of dynamic.

I think that's a challenge for us coming ahead and then continued partnership between the elements within the government, as well is in the private sector, that's the key to the future to me.

LOBIONDO: So just for the record, I also had a whole list of specific questions about individuals and/or circumstances that don't want to be repetitive and have you say, I can't comment on them. But I would anticipate when we move to classified session that this committee will be able to explore some of those -- some of the situations in a little more depth.

I have a couple of other questions about the -- about the -- the Russian intervention. But I don't have enough time to get into it right now.

Mr. Chairman, if you could give me a couple minutes when we get to the next round.


LOBIONDO: OK. So very briefly the -- if you can describe the elements of the Russia's active measures in the campaign in the 2016 election. We've only got 35 seconds, but that's the first thing I want to get into about exactly what they were doing if you can tell us anything about that.

ROGERS: So we saw cyber used, we saw the use of external media, we saw the use of disinformation, we saw the use of leaking of information, much of which was not altered.

I mean, we saw several, if you will, common traits that we have both seen over time as well as I would argue that the difference this time was that the -- the cyber dimension and the fact that the release of so much information that they had extracted via cyber is a primary tool to try to drive an outcome. LOBIONDO: So in this setting, can you talk to us at all about what

tools they used?

ROGERS: I'm not going to go into the specifics of how they executed the hacks. I apologize, no sir.

LOBIONDO: We'll try to get into that in classified. I'll hold off for now, thank you.

NUNES: Gentleman yields back.

Mr. Schiff's recognized for 15 minutes.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just had a couple follow-up questions.

Director Comey, can you tell me what an SF86 is?



COMEY: It's the standard background clearance form that all of us who are hired by the federal government and want to have access to classified information fill out.

SCHIFF: Would someone who is an incoming national security advisor have to fill out an SF86?

COMEY: Yes, I think so.

SCHIFF: Would that SF86 require that the applicant disclose any payments received from a foreign power?

COMEY: I think so. I mean, the form is the form. I think so and foreign travel as well.

SCHIFF: I'd make a request through you to the Justice Department or whatever IC component would have custody of Mr. Flynn's SF86, I'd make a request that that be provided to the committee.

And I yield now to Mr. Carson.

CARSON: Thank you, Ranking Member.

I'd like to focus my line of questioning on Russia's views toward Ukraine. In March 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea beginning a conflict which has effectively yet to be resolved.

Admiral Rogers, can you please briefly describe, as you understand it, sir, how Russia took Crimea?

ROGERS: I would argue the insertion of military force. They occupied it and physically removed it from Ukrainian control. CARSON: Sir, we've heard terms like little green men and hybrid

warfare. Can you please explain how these relate to Russia and Ukraine?

ROGERS: So on the Ukraine side, what we saw was over time, rather than the kind of overt kind of activity we saw to such a degree on the Crimea side, what we saw was a much bigger effort on the influence and attempts to distance Russian actions from any potential blowback to the Russian state, if you will, and hence the use of the little green men surrogates in military -- unmarked military uniforms, the flow of information, the provision of resources to support forcible separation of the Ukraine.

CARSON: Admiral, has Russia returned Crimea back to Ukraine, sir?

ROGERS: No. CARSON: Do they have intentions to?

ROGERS: They publicly indicated that they will not.

CARSON: Admiral, why does Russia even care about Ukraine?

ROGERS: I'm sure in their view they view this is a primary national interest for them. It's on the immediate periphery of the Russian state.

CARSON: Am I right, sir, that they see it as a part of their broader objective to influence and impact Russia's -- Ukraine's desire for self-determination?

ROGERS: Yes. I think that's part of it.

CARSON: Sir, as Russia tried to claim stolen territory in Ukraine, the U.S. and the rest of the world saw the annexation for what it was; a crime. Shortly after Russia invaded, the United Nations essentially declared it a crime in a nonbinding resolution. In our own government, recognizing the seriousness of the event instituted new sanctions against Russia, is that right sir?

ROGERS: Yes sir.

CARSON: Now this was a time where much of the world was united but Russia invaded another country and illegally annexed it's territory as we all stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine. Now one person who didn't see it that way, however, was president Donald Trump.

On July 30, in an interview with ABC News, Mr. Trump said of Putin, and I quote, "He's not going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand, he's not going into Ukraine, all right?" end quote.

Now, Admiral, hadn't Putin already gone into Ukraine two years before and hadn't left?

ROGERS: We're talking about the Crimea and influence on the Ukraine generally, yes, sir.

CARSON: And he still hasn't left, correct, sir? ROGERS: Now we're starting to get into some very technical questions

about are the Russians physically in the Ukraine, is it surrogates that the Crimea is a very example of to me. They outright invaded with armed military force and have annexed it.

CARSON: But are they effectively still in Ukraine?

ROGERS: They're certainly supporting the ongoing effort in the Ukraine to split that country.

CARSON: We'll get back to Mr. Trump in a minute. First, tell me sir, what would it mean to Russia and to Putin to have sanctions lifted? ROGERS: Clearly, even easing of economic impact, greater flexibility, more resources.

CARSON: Now according to NATO analysis, the Russian economy shrunk by as much as 3.5 percent in 2015 and had no growth in 2016 in big part because of western sanctions, especially those against the oil and gas industry.

Now, we're talking about a loss of over $135 billion just in the first year of sanctions. That's a huge sum of money and sanctions aren't meant to push their economy over a cliff, but to put long-term pressure on Putin to change his behavior. Putin, himself, said in 2016 that sanctions are severely harming Russia. So we know they've had success in putting pressure on the Kremlin.

Admiral, what would it mean geopolitically? Would it help legitimate Russia's illegal land grab?

ROGERS: Sir, I'm not -- I'm not in a position to talk broadly about the geopolitical implications. I mean we have stated previously, from an intelligence perspective, we tried to -- we have tried to outline to policy makers the specifics of the Russian invasion on Crimea, the specifics of the continued Russian support to separatists in the Ukraine that Russians continue to -- to pressure and the keep the Ukraine weak.

CARSON: Would it help cleave the United States from her allies?

ROGERS: If we remove the sanctions?

CARSON: There's a lot of steak -- there's a lot at stake here for Russia. This is big money, big strategic implications. If they can legitimate their annexation of Crimea, what's next? Are we looking at a new iron curtain descending across Eastern Europe? You know, most in our country recognize what is at stake in how the United States, as the leader of the free world, is the only check on Russian expansion.

So back to Mr. Trump and his cohort. At the republican convention in July, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Trump himself changed the republican party platform to no longer arm Ukraine. So the same month that Trump denied Putin's role in Ukraine, his team weakened the party platform on Ukraine and as we have and will continue to hear, this was the same month that several individuals in the Trump orbit held secret meetings with Russian officials, some of which may have been on the topic of sanctions against Russia or their intervention in Ukraine.

Now this is no coincidence in my opinion. In fact, the dossier written by former MI6 agent, Christopher Steele alleges that Trump agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue, which is effectively a priority for Vladimir Putin. There's a lot in the dossier that is yet to be proven, but increasingly as we'll hear throughout the day, allegations are checking out. And this one seems to be as accurate as they come. In fact, there is also one pattern I wanna point out before yielding back, Manafort, fired, Page, fired, Flynn, fired. Why? They were hired because of their Russian connections, they were fired. However, because their connections became public, they were effectively culpable. But they were also the fall guys. So I think after we hear Mr. Quigley's line of questioning, we might guess who could be next.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, I yield back.

SCHIFF: I yield the balance to Representative Speier.

SPEIER: Thank you, Ranking Member. Thank you gentlemen for your service to our country.

You know, I think it's really important as we sit here that we explain this to the American people in a way that they can understand it. Why are we talking about all of this? So my first question to each of you is, is Russia our adversary? Mr. Comey?


SPEIER: Mr. Rogers?


SPEIER: Is -- do they intend to do us harm?

ROGERS: They intend to ensure, I believe, that they gain advantage at our expense.

SPEIER: Director Comey?

COMEY: Yes, I wanna be -- harm can have many meetings. They're an adversary and so they wanna resist us, oppose us, undermine us, in lots of different ways.

SPEIER: So one of the terms that we hear often is hybrid warfare. And I'd like to just stand give a short definition of what it is. It blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare. The aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution.

So would you say that Russia engaged in hybrid warfare in its effort to undermine our Democratic process and engage in our electoral process? Director Comey?

COMEY: I don't think I would use the term warfare. I think you'd -- you'd wanna ask experts in the definition of war. They engaged in a multifaceted campaign of active measures to undermine our democracy and hurt one of the candidates and -- and hope to help one of the other candidates.

ROGERS: I'd agree with the director.

SPEIER: All right, well, thank you both. I actually think that their engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare and I think that's why the American people should be concerned about it.

Now, in -- in terms of trying to understand this, I -- I think of a spider web, with a tarantula in the middle. And the tarantula, in my view, is Vladimir Putin, who is entrapping many people to do his bidding and to engage with him. And I would include those like Roger Stone and Carter Page and Michael Caputo and Wilbur Ross and Paul Manafort and Rex Tillerson.

I'd like to focus first on Rex Tillerson in the three minutes I have, here. He was the CEO of Exxon Mobil. In 2008, he said that the likelihood of U.S./Russia businesses was, in fact, a poor investment, that Russia was a poor investment climate, that was in 2008. In 2011 he closed the $500 billion deal with Rosneft Oil. The CEO of Rosneft is Igor Sechin, who is a confident of President Putin, second most powerful man in Russia and probably a former KGB agent.

The deal gives Exxon access to the Black Sea and the Kara Seas and Siberia for oil development. Rosneft gets minority interest in Exxon in Texas and the Gulf. Rex Tillerson calls Sechin a good friend. In 2012, Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Sechin go on a road show here in the United States to talk about this great deal that they had just consummated.

Also in 2012 there's a video of President Putin and Mr. Tillerson toasting champagne at the deal. And in 2013, Mr. Tillerson receives the Russian Order of Friendship and he sits right next to President Putin at the event.

So my question to you Director Comey is, is it of value to President Putin knowing what you know of him and that his interest in doing harm to us, is it of benefit to Mr. Putin to have Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State?

COMEY: I can't answer that question.

SPEIER: Admiral Rogers?

ROGERS: Ma'am I'm not -- I'm not in the position answer that question.

SPEIER: All right. So in 2014 at Igor Sechin is sanctioned and he laments that he no longer will be able to come to the United States to motorcycle ride with Mr. Tillerson. Could you give me an understanding of what are some of the reasons that we impose sanctions, Direct Comey?

COMEY: On Sechin?

SPEIER: Well, just in general.

COMEY: Again, you'd have to ask an expert, but from my general knowledge it's to punish activities that are criminal in nature, that involve war crimes, that involve violations of U.N. resolutions or United States law in some other way, it's to communicate and enforce foreign policy interests and values of United States of America. That's my general sense, but an expert might describe it much better.

SPEIER: Admiral Rogers?

ROGERS: I would echo the Director's comments. It's also a tool that we use to attempt to drive and shake the choices and actions of others.

SPEIER: So in the case of Igor's session, who was sanctioned by the United States, in part to draw attention to the fact that Russia had invaded Crimea. It's an effort to try and send a very strong message to Russia, is that not true?

COMEY: I think that's right.

ROGERS: Yes ma'am.

SPEIER: With that, Mr. Chairman, I'll yield back for now.

NUNES: Gentleman yields back.

I'm going to yield myself 15 minutes and now yield to the general lady from Florida Ms. Ros-Lehtinen.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much Mr. Chairman.

It's never acceptable, we can all agree, for any foreign power to interfere with our electoral process and this committee has long been focused on Russia's reprehensible conduct. And we will remain focused on the threat emanating from Moscow. And I agree with you Director Comey, when you say this investigation that is ongoing, we will follow the facts wherever they lead on a bipartisan level and there will be no sacred cows.

There are many important issues at stake, as you gentlemen have heard. There is bipartisan agreement on the danger of illegal leaks and our ability to reauthorize important programs upon which our intelligence community relies. But I want to assure the American people that there's also bipartisan agreement on getting to the bottom of Russian meddling in our election which must remain the focus of this investigation and yours.

So Admiral Rogers, I agree in what you said that a public acknowledgement of this foreign meddling to be a problem is important as we move forward. And following on Congressman LoBiondo's questions and based on this theme, I'd like to ask you gentlemen if you could describe what, if anything, Russia did in this election that to your knowledge they did or they didn't do in previous elections, how -- how it was -- were their actions different in this election than -- than in previous ones.

ROGERS: I'd say the biggest difference from my perspective was both the use of cyber, the hacking as a vehicle to physically gain access to information to extract that information and then to make it widely, publicly available without any alteration or change. COMEY: The only thing I'd add is they were unusually loud in their intervention. It's almost as if they didn't care that we knew what they were doing or that they wanted us to see what they were doing. It was very noisy, their intrusions in different institutions.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And what specifically based on this loudness did the FBI or the NSA do to prevent or counter this Russian active measure that we read about in the intelligence community assessment? As loud as they were, what did we do to counter that?

COMEY: Well, among other things, we alerted people who had been victims of intrusions to permit them to tighten their systems to see if they couldn't kick the Russian actors out. We also, as a government, supplied information to all the states so they could equip themselves to make sure there was no successful effort to affect the vote and there was none, as we said earlier.

And then the government as a whole in October called it out. And I believe it was Director Clapper and then-secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement saying this is what the Russians are doing, sort of an inoculation.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And the loudness to which you refer, perhaps they were doing these kinds of actions previously in other elections but they were not doing it as loudly. What -- why do you think that they did not mind being loud and being found out?

COMEY: I don't know the answer for sure. I think part -- their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation and so it might be that they wanted us to help them by telling people what they were doing.

Their loudness, in a way, would be counting on us to amplify it by telling the American people what we saw and freaking people out about how the Russians might be undermining our elections successfully. And so that might have been part of their plan, I don't know for sure.

ROGERS: I've -- I agree with Director Comey. I mean, a big difference to me in the past was while there was cyber activity, we never saw in previous presidential elections information being published on such a massive scale that had been illegally removed both from private individuals as well as organizations associated with the democratic process both inside the government and outside the government.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And this massive amount and this loudness, now that it's become public knowledge, now that we have perhaps satisfied their -- their -- their thirst that it has become such a huge deal, do you expect their interference to be amplified in future U.S. elections?

Do you see any evidence of that in European elections or do you think that this public acknowledgment would -- would tamper down the volatility?

COMEY: I'll let my -- maybe I'll just say as initial matter they'll be back. And they'll be in 2020, they may be back in 2018 and one of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful because they introduced chaos and division and discord and sewed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our democratic process.

It's possible they're misreading that as it worked and so we'll come back and hit them again in 2020. I don't know but we have to assume they're coming back.

ROGERS: I fully expect them to continue this -- this level of activity because I -- our sense is that they have come to the conclusion that it generated a positive outcome for them in the sense that calling into question the democratic process for example is one element of the strategy.

We're working closely, we -- our FBI teammates, others working closely with our European teammates to provide the insights that we have seen to try to assist them as they, themselves, France and Germany for example, about to undergo significant national leadership elections over the course of the next two months.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And in terms of the European elections, what -- what have you seen or any information that you can share with us about the Russian interference in that process?

ROGERS: So you see some of the same things that we saw in the U.S. in terms of disinformation, fake news, attempts to release of information to embarrass individuals, you're seeing that play out to some extent in European elections right now.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I look forward to continuing with you.

Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.

NUNES: Gentlelady yields back.

Mr. Turner is recognized.

TURNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Comey, Admiral Rogers, thank you for being here today and for your -- what appears to be attempts at being forthcoming with the committee. I also want to thank the Chairman and the Ranking Member Schiff. This is a bipartisan effort.

I think as you've looked to what this committee is undertaking, everyone wants answers and everyone want answers to all of the questions that are being asked because this does go to such an important issue concerning our elections.

Admiral Rogers, I'm going to begin with a question to you concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now Admiral, as you know that the foreign service -- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides the circumstances or the authority under which the intelligence community may collect or intercept the communication of a foreign person located outside of the United States, or as Mr. Comey's indicated a person who is covered under a FISA court order.

Now, with Mr. Rooney and Mr. Gowdy you discussed the minimization procedures under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and those minimization procedures are supposed to protect the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. Specifically, it's geared toward the communications of those who maybe inadvertently or incidentally collected as a result of the intelligence community's lawful collection of communications of others.

So Mr. Rogers, is the intelligence community required to cease collection or the interception of communications if the result of the collection or interception includes the communications of an incoming U.S. administration official, the president-elect or the president- elect's transition team.

ROGERS: It depends under what authority work, as I said early on, there's a series of questions we go through, was there criminal associated activity, does the conversation deal about threats to U.S. persons, breaking of the law. So there's no simple yes or no, there's a series of processes we have in place.

TURNER: Mr. Rogers, is there any provision of minimization that requires you to cease collection? Because that is my question, are you under any circumstances required to cease collection if the collection results in the either inadvertent or incidental collection of an incoming U.S. administration official, the president-elect or the president-elect's transition team?

ROGERS: Purely on the basis of exposure, I wanna make sure I understand the question, is -- is...


TURNER: Are you required to cease, if you are -- are undertaking lawful collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of a person or individual, either because they're a foreign person located outside the United States or the person that you're collecting against, is the subject of a FISA Court order.