Federal Bureau of Investigation probing Russian interference in USA polls

All eyes on FBI chief as Russia, wiretap claims swirl

By the afternoon the director of the FBI, James B. Comey, had systematically demolished his arguments in a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president.

Comey was testifying along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also disputed allegations that surfaced past year that British intelligence services were involved in the wiretapping.

But it's the obsessiveness and ferocity of Trump's pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse.

Trump's allies have begun to wonder if his need for self-expression, often on social media, will exceed his instinct for self-preservation, with disastrous results both for the president and for a party whose fate is now tightly tied to his. "We always have to be answering questions about the tweets - it puts us on defense all the time when we could be building a case for the president".

But Trump didn't take the bait, instead focusing on his health care overhaul, which could go to the floor as early as Thursday. But I think it's telling what they're focusing on in their questions.

NSA Director Michael Rogers agreed: "I fully expect them to continue this level of activity". His approval rating has tumbled to 37 per cent, according to a new Gallup poll, down eight points from a week earlier.

The hearing, providing the most extensive public accounting of a matter that has dogged the Trump administration for its first two months, quickly broke along partisan lines.

Donald Trump supporters on Monday admitted they are unconcerned about the FBI investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, with one supporter insisting if the "liberal" media won't reveal the truth, we should "let Russian Federation do it for us".

But this president, a proponent of do-it-yourself crisis communications with boundless self-confidence in his capacity to shape the story, seems determined to hug his Russian hand grenade.

Instead, what we got from Trump on Monday were early morning tweets slamming the idea that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

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If the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history. "Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!" And not only are we investigating Russian action; we're investigating any sort of collaboration with the Trump campaign.

He acknowledged that this is not the first administration to face leaks of classified information, but that the Trump administration has seen an unusual volume of leaks since Trump took office. "Must find leaker now!"

About two hours later, Trump asked in a tweet, "What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians?"

Plus he just likes to mix it up.

After the uproar that followed Trump's tweets on Obama and wiretapping, the president and his spokesmen recast the claim, saying he was referring to surveillance more broadly. One of the president's friends posted a picture online leaving little doubt, and Trump's "very little" comment made clear that the golf outing, which his aides were reluctant to acknowledge, actually happened.

"There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception", Schiff said on NBC's "Meet the Press".

Still, there's some evidence that the president's magic medium is losing its effectiveness, in part because Trump's Twitter persona seems to have shifted from puckish to paranoid.

Focus groups and polls conducted by two Democratic strategists this month have shown that many voters, even some who support Trump, have grown tired of his tweets as president. "They're also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe", he said on "Fox News Sunday".

Trump, minutes after McConnell was booed, urged his supporters, "I want you to give him a nice hand because he is on our side". "No", he said. "It was not our intention to say that today".

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