WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year's presidential election.
The revelation, and the first public confirmation of an investigation that began last summer, came at the outset of Comey's opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump's campaign.
He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations but said he'd been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.
"This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done," Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.
Under questioning from the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, he also publicly contradicted a series of tweets from Trump that declared the Republican candidate's phones had been ordered tapped by President Barack Obama during the campaign.
"I have no confirmation that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI," Comey said. The same was true, he added, of the Justice Department.
He also disputed allegations that British intelligence services were involved in the wiretapping.
Comey was the latest government official to reject Trump's claims, made without any evidence, that Obama had wiretapped his New York skyscraper during the campaign. Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and chairman of the House intelligence committee, also rejected it earlier in the hearing.
Comey was testifying along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.
Trump took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates' contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.
"The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!" Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning's cable news.
Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.