According to former FBI Director James Comey, an FBI counterintelligence probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election initially targeted “four Americans,” but not Republican nominee Donald Trump or his campaign.
The news revealed Saturday in a 235-page transcript was published by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., after hours of closed-door testimony by James Comey on Friday.
The former FBI Director said “at least some” of the people targeted were affiliated with the Trump campaign in some form, but Trump himself was not under investigation into whether the four individuals colluded with Russia to tip the election in his favor.
“We opened investigations on four Americans to see if there was any connection between those four Americans and the Russian interference effort,” Comey told Gowdy. “And those four Americans did not include the candidate. At least some of them were. The FBI and the Department of Justice have not confirmed the names of those folks publicly, which is why I’m not going into the specifics.”
James Comey told Rep. John Ratcliffe that the FBI had suspected the four individuals may have helped Russia interfere in the election.
“[A]t the time a defensive briefing was done for candidate Trump, do you know if the FBI had any evidence that anyone associated with the Trump campaign had colluded or conspired or coordinated with Russia in any way?” Ratcliffe asked.
“I don’t know the dates. … I don’t know whether it was before late July when we opened the four counterintelligence files, or not,” Comey replied. “And so, if it was after July 29th, then the answer would be, yes, we had some reason to suspect that there were Americans who might have assisted the Russians.”
Though the four individuals have not as yet been named publically, ex-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was prosecuted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and was released from prison on Friday after serving 12 days. Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents.
Other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, have pleaded guilty to lying about their interactions with Russians during the campaign and presidential transition period.
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