Five things to watch for during the Intel Committee hearing on Russia – Washington Examiner

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The American public could get answers to questions that have bothered many. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers will appear at a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday to answer questions about Russian influence on the 2016 election. The hearing will be the most defined and focused moment during which the American public could get answers to scores of questions which, until now, have only been rumors, innuendo, leaked stories to the press, and sometimes baffling tweets.

The questions surrounding Russia have now spun off in so many directions, there’s even a legitimate question as to how thorough an investigation can be. That much was acknowledged by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, in a solo press conference on March 7.

“Can we do a credible investigation of the whole range of allegations involving Russia and the U.S. elections?” Rep. Schiff, D-Calif., asked. “I would only say this: To be honest, we don’t know yet. I can’t say for certain whether that will be possible, I can only say it is very much in the national interest that we do so.”

It’s a foregone conclusion that at the hearing, Comey will be asked if the Trump campaign was the target of a wiretap, and Comey will say no.

But moving past that, here are 5 other questions to watch for in the testimony, or as a result of it.

1 – Will Democrats on the Intelligence Committee deeply pursue questions about “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia?

Collusion seemed to be the hot theory in late January and into early February for Democrats, but since then, these allegations or insinuations have cooled.

On March 7, Schiff was asked if he felt confident, even generally speaking, that evidence existed proving collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“At this very early stage in the investigation, I don’t think we ought to be drawing any conclusions on any of the issues we’re looking at, and so I’m not in a position to say what the strength of evidence or lack of evidence … or anything of the sort,” Schiff responded.

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The pundit class will likely be watching this line of questioning to see if Democrats still have faith in the theory.

2 – Will any testimony further enlighten the public on the Flynn conversation?

When news broke that a phone call had been intercepted between Mike Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, the immediate question was whether he had truthfully informed Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the conversation. However, the secondary speculation was that the conversation either showed a violation of the Hatch Act, or the conversation contained proof of collusion.

News reports stated the conversation dealt with last-minute sanctions on Russia from the Obama administration, and if those reports hadn’t been true, Flynn wouldn’t have resigned. But little else beyond that is known.

3 – Will anyone who was not specifically invited to testify offer to do so?

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A follow-up hearing is already slated for March 28. But when Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced the hearings, he made clear that they were open, and people who had not been specifically invited were still free to offer their testimony.

Given the accusations by President Trump against about Obama administration eavesdropping, is testimony from Loretta Lynch a possibility? Or would Lynch ultimately testify to support the testimony of others? Would Mike Flynn volunteer testimony?

Nunes has also said the committee will accept voluntary written testimony, which could provide something of a safe harbor for those who want to contribute their thoughts, but potentially avoid a grilling.

4 – How free will Comey and Rogers feel to answer questions?

The hearing will be notable that it will be public, despite that it will dive into questions of intelligence gathering, something that’s usually kept behind closed doors.

However, Nunes has noted that making the hearing open was necessary. “I want to conduct as many of these hearings in open in the public, and as you know that’s rare for the intelligence committees to do, but because of the seriousness of the accusations involved on all sides of this issue, I want to make sure that we hold as many of these hearings out in public so that the American people can attend and report on it,” Nunes said.

Comey and Rogers will obviously be hamstrung by not being able to disclose national secrets. If they’re unable to answer almost any question, then the committee isn’t making progress until it starts asking questions in private.

5 – Has the Office of the Director of National Intelligence made strides in providing computer information to the Intelligence Committee?

Last week, Chairman Nunes said the committee was having difficulty with the ODNI and “whether or not they’re going to let us have the proper computer technology we need to go through the evidence” and data related to the investigation.

For example, Congressman Schiff has said he’s been taking handwritten notes on data he has viewed at ODNI offices.

After being called out publicly, how will ODNI respond?








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