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Thursday March 30th, 2017 8:45AM

The Latest: Comey says FBI investigating Russia interference

By The Associated Press
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on a congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

FBI Director James Comey is publicly confirming for the first time that the FBI is investigating Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any potential coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia's government.

Comey is testifying before Congress. He says he's authorized by the Justice Department to make the disclosure. Typically, the FBI does not discuss or even confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.

Comey says the probe is part of the FBI's counter-intelligence mission. He says the investigation includes the nature of any links between individuals associated with Trump's campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between Russia's efforts and the campaign.

Comey says the investigation will also look at whether crimes were committed. He says he can't provide details about the investigation.

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10:25 a.m.

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says he hopes FBI Director James Comey will put questions about whether Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Barack Obama "permanently to rest."

Rep. Adam Schiff is speaking at the start of the committee's hearing on Russia's interference in the presidential election. Comey is testifying at the hearing, along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Schiff says Democrats on the committee will be focused in part on whether Americans helped Russia with its hacking of Democratic groups and individuals.

Trump has said he has no knowledge of his associates coordinating with Russia during the election. He's refused to back down from his assertion that Obama wiretapped his New York City skyscraper during the campaign, despite there being no evidence.

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10:10 a.m.

The chairman of the House intelligence committee says there was no physical wiretap on Trump Tower, but it's possible that "other surveillance activities" were used against President Donald Trump and his associates.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is speaking at the opening of the committee's first public hearing on Russia's interference in the 2016 election. He says the committee has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents, but will continue to investigate that question.

He also says the committee will investigate who has been leaking classified information about investigations into Russia's interference.

Nunes says he hopes the committee's hearings will result in a "definitive report" on Russia's involvement in the presidential election.

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7 a.m.

President Donald Trump is accusing Democrats of fabricating allegations about Russia and creating more "fake news."

His tweets came just hours before a congressional hearing on Russia. The House Intelligence Committee will hear from FBI Director James Comey on whether U.S. officials believe Russia tried to bolster Trump's chances in the election and if there were any connections between Moscow and Trump's campaign aides.

Trump tweeted Monday: "The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!"

A separate tweet referenced James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, who has said that Trump's allegation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower is false. "James Clapper and others stated there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it."

Trump also tweeted that the "real story" is the leaking of classified information.

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3:30 a.m.

A congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election that has so far unfolded behind closed doors moves into the open with a public hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey.

A hearing Monday before one of several congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, the House Intelligence Committee, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

Comey has been invited to testify, along with the director of the National Security Agency, Michael Rogers.

The committee is investigating, among other things, Russian hacking that intelligence officials have said was meant to influence the election. Also of interest to the committee are any connections between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump.

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