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Wednesday
May162018

James Comey not expected to appear at Senate Russia hearing

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former FBI Director James Comey is not expected to attend a closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday reviewing the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russia’s 2016 election interference efforts, according to a committee aide.

As part of its Russia investigation, the panel, which is reviewing the January 2017 report, invited four former intelligence community leaders to testify about the analysis compiled during the Obama administration that concluded, among other things, that the Kremlin targeted Hillary Clinton and favored President Donald Trump -- a finding questioned by some Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers are expected to appear on Capitol Hill Wednesday for the hearing, according to the committee.

Comey, who was fired by Trump last year and recently released a book about leadership that described his encounters with the president and likened Trump to a mafia boss seeking loyalty, was also invited to testify but is not expected to appear, according to the committee aide.

A representative for Comey did not respond to a request for comment.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who recently wrapped up their own investigation, released a report last month that found “no evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and also accused the intelligence community of not using “proper analytic tradecraft” in its judgement of Russia President Vladimir Putin’s “strategic objectives for disrupting the U.S. election.”

Previously, Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who led the committee’s Russia probe, told reporters that the Republican majority on the committee disputed the intelligence community’s January 2017 high-confidence determination that Putin “developed a clear preference” for Trump over Clinton, arguing that the claim was not properly supported.

House Democrats -- and several Republicans -- disputed that initial conclusion by the committee’s majority, which was not a part of the final report.

"The Minority has found no evidence that calls into question the quality and reliability of the [Intelligence Community Assessment's] underlying reporting and key judgments, including the assessment about President Putin’s desire to help candidate Trump," Democrats wrote in their own dissenting views. "The Minority likewise has found no reason to doubt the subject matter expertise and analytic rigor of the ICA’s authors, nor the review standards and process leading to the assessment’s production and release."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the panel will release a separate report on its review of the intelligence community assessment.

In March, the committee released election security policy recommendations, while last week it released an interim report on election security.

That report concluded that Russian-linked hackers targeted election systems in at least 18 states. The committee found no evidence that any voters were changed as a result of Russian activities, but determined that hackers were in a position to alter or delete voter registration data in a few states.

Asked how the Senate’s review of the intelligence assessment would differ from the House Intelligence Committee’s determinations, Burr said, “I’m not sure that the House was required to substantiate every conclusion with facts.”

“We may have different opinions, but whatever we propose, whatever we assess -- we’re going to have the facts to show for that. So it may be that we don’t go as far as they did. It may be that we do,” he told reporters.

While Comey will not appear on Capitol Hill before the Senate, House Republicans have expressed renewed interest in questioning the former FBI director about his interactions with Trump and past congressional testimony following his media blitz.

The Justice Department inspector general is expected to release its report into Comey's actions and the FBI's handling of the Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations in the coming weeks.

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