FBI director fact-checks Trump’s false tweet about Russian meddling in real time

The tweet, from the president’s official account was “not quite right.”

FBI Director James Comey, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
FBI Director James Comey, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

During Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey fact-checked a misleading tweet from Donald Trump’s official presidential Twitter account shortly after it was posted.

A 2:25 p.m., Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) asked Comey about this tweet from the official presidential account, operated by a White House staffer, that posted at 1:42 p.m.

Trump’s tweet, which read, “the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process,” took an exchange between NSA Director Mike Rogers and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) that occurred earlier during the hearing well out of context. The director of the NSA, an intelligence agency focused abroad, said it had no evidence of actual vote tampering. The White House turned this response into a denial that Russia influenced the electoral process.

Nunes was asking about voting irregularities in several swing states, not about hacking political parties for sensitive information and selectively releasing information from some parties but not others.

Later in the hearing, Comey confirmed that both the Democratic and Republican parties were hacked in 2016 by Russians, but that the only information released was hacked from Democrats.

Comey would have a chance to respond to the White House’s position 45 minutes later. Rep. Himes said that “thanks to the modern technology that’s in front of me right here I’ve got a tweet from the president and hour ago saying, ‘the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process.’ So that’s not quite accurate, that tweet.”

The FBI director said he hadn’t been following anyone on Twitter at the hearing, and Himes read it again, asking if the tweet, which went out to 16.1 million people, was accurate.

Comey said “it’s hard for me to react to that,” and continued, “we’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact, because it’s never something that we looked at.”

“So it’s not too far of a logical leap to conclude that the assertion that you have told the Congress that there is no influence on the electoral process, is not quite right,” Himes said.

“Right,” Comey said. “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today, because we don’t have any information on that subject, and that’s not something that was looked at.”

Watch the exchange, along with the initial lengthy pause before Comey started responding:

Comey opened the hearing by confirming an investigation into the ties between Trump and Russia and dismissing Trump’s claim that President Obama had wiretapped him. Nunes, the chair of the committee, responded to the public confirmation of the investigation by suggesting to Comey that he investigate any ties between Hillary Clinton and “Russian agents.”