After months of running speculation that President Donald Trump and his administration colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, FBI Director James Comey announced March 20 that the bureau is investigating possible ties between Trump and Russia.
Comey, along with Adm. Michael S. Rogers, made the announcement of the investigation during a testimony March 20 in front of the House Intelligence Committee. Comey also disputed Trump’s allegations that former President Barack Obama’s administration wiretapped Trump Tower during last year’s presidential campaign.
The FBI’s investigation will look into how connections between the Trump campaign and Russia may have influenced results of the 2016 election. In the past few months, news outlets have published stories diving into reports about the possible connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials. Trump, in response, then disputed these stories by saying they were politically motivated.
During the presidential campaign, several email hacks published on WikiLeaks prompted the beginning of the allegations that Russia may have been tampering with the election. Targets of these email hacks included Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and the Democratic National Convention. Following these hacks, an assessment from the CIA concluded that they were part of an attempt to help Trump win the election.
The Trump administration was consistently bombarded with allegations of collusion with Russia during the campaign. On Feb. 13, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, resigned after it was revealed that he had provided misleading information about his contact with a Russian ambassador in January. Flynn had previously said that he did not have any contact with Russia, but a former administration official said Flynn was not being completely honest with his interactions.
On Jan. 5, James R. Clapper Jr., former director of national intelligence, said in an intelligence hearing that Russia meddled in the 2016 election through hacking and rampant misinformation. The New York Times also reported weeks later that American intelligence agencies had been investigating intercepted communications between other members of the Trump campaign and Russia, including Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chair.
White House officials responded to Comey’s announcement of the investigation with dismissal, saying there was nothing to investigate because the campaign did not communicate with Russia. Before Comey’s announcement, Trump tweeted that the Democrats were influencing the proliferation of the Trump and Russia narrative as an excuse for their campaign. In a news conference that same day, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump still stood by his assertions that Obama wiretapped his campaign, despite Comey and the FBI’s having no evidence to back up this claim.