It often seemed like Democrats and Republicans were attending a different event.
GOP lawmakers showed a unity in raising questions about the unmasking of Flynn, suggesting Trump need not worry yet about ebbing support on Capitol Hill.
Many Democrats, meanwhile, seemed determined to raise every allegation about Trump and Russia — most of which have little hard evidence in support.
The White House and Republicans in the committee introduced a new wrinkle in the Russia saga, raising legitimate questions about whether leaks that exposed former national security adviser Michael Flynn's name following his conversations with the Russian ambassador breached the law.
Comey did confirm that some Obama officials might have had access to the intelligence, but declined to draw any conclusions about them.
From Washington Post:
The committee Republicans, meanwhile, seemed most exercised by leaks to the media
One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 piece by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s then-national security adviser, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were observed under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls. Flynn, who had denied to Vice President Pence that he had spoken about sanctions, was forced to resign.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) suggested that the leaks were political. He asked Comey whether the intelligence community had shared such information with Obama or his attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch.
Comey — who had acknowledged that in general, senior officials, including Lynch, would have access to such information — said he would not comment on his conversations with Obama or Trump.
Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or U.S. persons overseas.
“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”
Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly.
Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” — in which investigating agents hear the words of people conversing with the targets of a wiretap — are disclosed only on a “valid, need-to-know” basis, and usually only when there is criminal activity or a potential threat to the United States at play.
Comey confirmed that individuals within the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department and others — including personnel in the White House, in some situations — could have requested the unmasking of the names of U.S. persons. But he stressed that only the collecting agency, whether it’s the FBI, the NSA or the CIA, can unmask the identities of people.