Where The Russia Investigation Stands Ahead Of Comey Testimony

May 3, 2017
Originally published on May 3, 2017 7:28 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It has been six weeks since FBI Director James Comey publicly acknowledged that the bureau is running an investigation into Russia and the 2016 election.

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JAMES COMEY: And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.

MARTIN: That was FBI director James Comey testifying before Congress back in March. He hasn't given a public update on the investigation since. Director Comey is back in the witness chair today though. And here to give us a preview is NPR national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly.

Hi, Louise.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: Comey actually has two dates with Congress this week, right?

KELLY: He does.

MARTIN: Where is he testifying, and what should we be listening for here?

KELLY: This morning he is over at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would normally be a routine oversight hearing for the FBI. But if you remember the Trump-Russia dossier - that was the dossier everybody was talking about a couple months ago. It was put together by an ex-MI6 officer, Christopher Steele. This is the dossier that alleges that Russia has all kinds of dirt on Donald Trump. It has come to light that Steele, the author of this dossier, was working with the FBI. There are a lot of questions about that.

And the chair of the committee that's going to be grilling Comey today - this is Senator Chuck Grassley - has fired off a letter raising all of these questions. He wrote to Comey last Friday. I'm looking at the letter now. To describe it as testy would be an understatement.

MARTIN: OK.

KELLY: So he's going to be pushing for answers to some of these questions. What was the deal between Steele, this dossier and the FBI? We're watching for that today.

MARTIN: So a regular check-in could prove to be a little more exceptional.

KELLY: Yes.

MARTIN: All right. So we mentioned Comey is testifying twice. Tomorrow, he is before the House Intelligence Committee. Worth noting - this is the same committee - right? - where he dropped the bombshell about the FBI investigating Trump and Russia.

KELLY: It is indeed.

MARTIN: Other big news expected in this appearance?

KELLY: Well, the - that one's going to be closed, behind closed doors so we won't know if there are more bombshells getting dropped or not, unless and until the leaks begin. But you will - I mean, just the fact that they're having a hearing at all is worth noting. I mean, back in March when, as you mentioned, Comey last testified, the man running the proceedings was Devin Nunes, who has since had to step aside because he is now under investigation - an ethics allegation - being investigated for possibly mishandling classified information. So this is this committee saying, we're back on track. We're holding a hearing. And they'll have Comey and also the head of the NSA, Mike Rogers, tomorrow.

MARTIN: OK. So what about timing on all this? What's the timeframe for any of these investigations to finish? Do we know?

KELLY: Short answer, Rachel, not soon. We're in the settle-in-for-the-long-haul phase of the investigation. Mark Warner, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, got asked that very question, the timing question. And here is what he said yesterday on WHRV. This is the NPR Norfolk station.

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MARK WARNER: I was originally hoping that we could conclude this before the August recess. I'm not sure that's going to be realistic at this point. For example, we just got - I think it was yesterday or the day before - the third massive tranche of information from the NSA.

KELLY: The NSA, the National Security Agency. So thousands of pages of classified documents coming in. Warner said they have now interviewed 33 witnesses, but the witness lists, I'm told, are growing, not shrinking.

MARTIN: So if we take the senator at his word, could be months before any kind of definitive statement on the...

KELLY: Could be months. The flip side is, when I interviewed Senator Warner on the Hill recently, he said, look, this is urgent because there are more elections coming. If we want to make sure there is not future interference in the U.S. democratic process, we have to get this done.

MARTIN: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, thanks so much.

KELLY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.