On March 20, 2017, F.B.I. director James B. Comey announced at a hearing before the White House Intelligence committee that the F.B.I. is investigating ties between President Donald J. Trump and Russia. The investigation could take months, or even years, according to the New York Times.
During the public hearing Comey and Admiral Michael S. Rodgers, director of the National Security Agency, gave testimonies stating that the claims made by news organizations regarding connections between Russian politicians and Trump are being examined. Both officials stated that the contents of a dossier, which was an unverified document released in January with claims made linking Trump to ties with Russia, will be investigated in the upcoming months. Additionally, they testified that claims from Trump that former President Barack Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower in the months leading up to the election were false.
Claims of connections between Trump and Russia were first highlighted by CNN news. On January 10, 2017, they reported that a two-page summary of a 35 page dossier regarding interactions between Trump and Russian citizens and officials, was given to Trump, former President Obama, and 8 members of congress. The dossier was written by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele, and includes excerpts from memos regarding meetings between Trump aides and Russian operatives and descriptions of sextual contact that have yet to be verified. The same day, Buzzfeed released the full dossier, claiming that the documents had been circling amongst journalists and politicians for months. Though many journalists feared releasing it due to the unverified nature of the document, Buzzfeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith stated in a memo, “Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers.”
Trump and White House staff have publicly denied the claims that Trump has ties to Russia. In January, the same day as the dossier was released, Trump shared a tweet stating, “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” On March 20, after the hearing, Trump shared a series of tweets saying that the testimonies were false.
“It’s so ridiculous on so many levels,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney, said to news outlet Mic. “Clearly, the person who created this did so from their imagination or did so hoping that the liberal media would run with this fake story for whatever rationale they might have. The real story that Congress, the F.B.I. and all others should be looking into is the leaking of classified information. Must find leaker now!”