Comey’s hearing casts grey cloud over White House 

Dhaka,  Sun,  23 April 2017
Published : 21 Mar 2017, 16:46:06 | Updated : 21 Mar 2017, 16:46:38
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Comey’s hearing casts grey cloud over White House 

The FBI Director James Comey, in his deadpan way, characteristically unleashed a new chain of political consequences Monday, in hours of steely testimony before a House hearing examining Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Just five months ago, Democrats were left fulminating at Comey's handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton's email server.

Now, as Comey wades back into the political swamp, it's Republicans who are left to fret after the FBI chief sensationally dispensed with protocol to confirm his agents were probing alleged collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign aides and Moscow.

By publicly confirming the probe, Comey sentenced the White House to months of uncertainty, potential leaks and distractions that already threaten to sap the President's political capital at a crucial moment.

It is quite possible that no charges will ever be levelled against Trump aides and that the FBI counter-intelligence operation will find that there was no wrongdoing or collusion by Trump aides.

But the suspicion will hover for months over former Trump associates like former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — who denied any wrongdoing in a statement on Monday — and foreign policy expert Carter Page — and by extension over the President himself.

"The longer this hangs out here, the bigger the cloud is," Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes told Comey as the hearing broke up, urging him to expedite the investigation.

"There is a big, grey cloud that you have now put over people who have very important work leading the country," Nunes said.

In a second blow to the President's credibility, Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that he had "no information" to support claims by the President that Trump Tower was targeted in a surveillance operation ordered by his predecessor Barack Obama. 

Comey's deskmate at the House Intelligence hearing, National Security Agency Chief Mike Rogers, torpedoed another Trump claim — that Obama had ordered British spies to eavesdrop on his presidential election campaign.

Such has been the disruption and the uproar during Trump's first two months in office, that the significance of individual events in the torrent of political news often gets overlooked.

But the spectacle of two of the most senior intelligence chiefs publicly contradicting the President for whom they work marked another milestone in an administration that is shattering all kinds of conventions.

The trio of bombshells put an increasingly beleaguered White House on the defensive. Trump's recent poll numbers are among the lowest of Trump's presidency.

"Following this testimony it's clear nothing has changed," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during Monday's briefing. "Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm there's no evidence of a Trump/Russia collusion."

But the new headache for the White House was not the only takeaway of the day of testimony in the House hearing room at the Longworth Office Building, where theatre style seating exacerbated the sense of political drama.

-CNN
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