Mr. Chairman, I thank you.
I also want to thank Director Comey and Admiral Rogers for appearing before
us today as the committee holds its first open hearing into the
interference campaign waged against our 2016 Presidential election.
Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested and hugely
consequential Presidential campaign, a foreign, adversarial power
intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the
outcome for one candidate and against the other. That foreign adversary
was, of course, Russia, and it acted through its intelligence agencies
and upon the direct instructions of its autocratic ruler, Vladimir
Putin, in order to help Donald J. Trump become the 45th President of the
The Russian “active measures” campaign may have begun as early as 2015,
when Russian intelligence services launched a series of spearphishing
attacks designed to penetrate the computers of a broad array of
Washington-based Democratic and Republican party organizations, think
tanks, and other entities. This continued at least through winter of
While at first, the hacking may have been intended solely for the
collection of foreign intelligence, in mid-2016 the Russians
“weaponized” the stolen data and used platforms established by the intel services, such as DC Leaks and existing third party channels like Wikileaks, to
dump the documents.
The stolen documents were almost uniformly damaging to the candidate
Putin despised, Hillary Clinton. And, by forcing her campaign to
constantly respond to the daily drip of disclosures, the releases
greatly benefited Donald Trump’s campaign.
None of these facts is seriously in question and they are reflected in
the consensus conclusion of our intelligence agencies.
We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in
such a close election. Indeed, it is unknowable in a campaign in which
so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More
importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does
not matter. What does matter is this: The Russians successfully meddled
in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded they
will do so again.
Ours is not the first democracy to be attacked by the Russians in this
way. Russian intelligence has been similarly interfering in the internal
and political affairs of our European and other allies for decades. What
is striking here is the degree to which the Russians were willing to
undertake such an audacious and risky action against the most powerful
nation on earth. That ought to be a warning to us, that if we thought
that the Russians would not dare to so blatantly interfere in our
affairs, we were wrong. And if we do not do our very best to understand
how the Russians accomplished this unprecedented attack on our democracy,
and what we need to do to protect ourselves in the future, we will have
only ourselves to blame.
We know a lot about the Russian operation, about the way they amplified
the damage their hacking and dumping of stolen documents was causing
through the use of slick propaganda like
RT, the Kremlin’s media arm.
But there is a lot we don't know.
Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of
U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many
of the Trump’s campaign personnel, including the President himself, have
ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On
the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anyone 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 democracy
In Europe, where the Russians have a much longer history of political
interference, they've used a variety of techniques to undermine
democracy. They employed the hacking and dumping of documents and
slick propaganda as they clearly did here, but they have also used
bribery, blackmail, compromising material, and financial entanglement to
secure needed cooperation from individual citizens of targeted
The issue of U.S. person involvement is only one of the important
matters that the Chairman and I have agreed to investigate, and which is
memorialized in the detailed and bipartisan scope of investigation that we
have signed. We will also examine whether the intelligence community’s
assessment of the Russian operation is supported by the raw
intelligence, whether the U.S. Government responded properly or missed
the opportunity to stop this Russian attack much earlier, and whether
the leak of information about
Michael Flynn or others is indicative of a
We have also reviewed whether there was any evidence
to support President Trump’s claim, that he was wiretapped by President
Obama in Trump Tower, and found no evidence whatsoever to support that
slanderous accusation -- and we hope that Director Comey can now put that
matter permanently to rest.
Today, most of my Democratic colleagues will be exploring, with the
potential involvement of U.S. persons in the Russian attack on our
democracy. It is not that we feel the other issues are less important --
they are very important -- but rather because this issue is least
understood by the public. We realize, of course, that the witnesses may not be
able to answer many of the questions in open session. They may or may not
be willing to disclose even whether there is an investigation. But we
hope to present to you, directors [Comey
Rogers] and the public why we believe this
is a matter of
such gravity that it demands a thorough investigation, not only by us,
as we intend to do, but by the FBI as well.
Let me give you a short preview of what I expect you'll be asked by
Whether the Russian
active measures campaign began as nothing more than
an attempt to gather intelligence, or was always intended to be more
than that, we do not know, and is one of the questions we hope to
answer. But we do know this: The months of July and August 2016 appear
to have been pivotal. It was at this time the Russians began using
the information they had stolen to help Donald Trump and harm Hillary
Clinton. And so the question is why? What was happening in July/August
of last year? And were U.S. persons involved?
Here are some of the matters, drawn from public sources alone, since
that is all we can discuss in this setting, that concern us and, we
concern all Americans.
In early July,
Carter Page, someone candidate Trump identified as one of
his national security advisors, travels to Moscow on a trip approved by
the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech1
critical of the
United States and other western countries for what he believes is a
hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption.
Christopher Steele, a British -- a former British intelligence officer
who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian
sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin,
CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a former KGB
agent and close friend of Putin’s. According to Steele’s Russian
sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a
19 percent share of the company. According to Reuters, the sale of a
19.5 percent share of Rosneft later takes place, with unknown purchasers
and unknown brokerage fees.
Also, according to Steele’s Russian sources, the [Trump] campaign is
offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would
publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks.
The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration
policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead
focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share --
policies which, even as recently as the President’s meeting last week
with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass.
In the middle of July,
Paul Manafort, the -- the Trump campaign manager and
someone who was long on the payroll of Pro-Russian Ukrainian
interests, attends the -- the Republican Party convention. Carter Page, back
from Moscow, also attends the convention. According to Steele, it was Manafort who chose Page to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign
and Russian interests.
Ambassador Kislyak, who presides over a Russian
embassy in which diplomatic personnel would later be expelled as likely
spies, also attends the Republican Party convention and meets with
Carter Page and additional Trump Advisors
J.D. Gordon and Walid Phares. It
was J.D. Gordon who approved Page’s trip to Moscow. Ambassador Kislyak also
meets with Trump national campaign chair -- national security campaign
chair and now Attorney
General Jeff Sessions. Sessions would later deny meeting with Russian
officials during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed,
removing a section that supports the provision of “lethal defensive
weapons” to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian
interests. Manafort categorically denies involvement by the Trump
campaign in altering the platform. But the Republican Party delegate who
offered the language in support of providing defensive weapons to
Ukraine states it was removed at the insistence of the Trump
campaign. Later, J.D. Gordon admits opposing the inclusion of the
provision at the time it was being debated and prior to its being
Later in July, and after the convention, the first
stolen emails detrimental to Hillary Clinton appear on Wikileaks. A hacker
who goes by the moniker Guccifer 2[.0] claims responsibility for hacking
the DNC and giving the documents to Wikileaks. But leading private cyber
security firms including CrowdStrike, Mandiant, and ThreatConnect review
the evidence of the hack and conclude with high certainty that it was
the work of APT28 and
APT29, who were known to be Russian
intelligence services. The U.S. Intelligence community also later
confirms that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence
and Guccifer 2[.0] acted as a front. Also in late July, candidate Trump
praises Wikileaks, says
he loves them, and openly appeals to the
Russians to hack his opponents’ emails, telling them that they will be
richly rewarded by the press.
On August 8th, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor and
self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts
in a speech that
he has “communicated with Assange,” and that more documents would be
coming, including an “October surprise.” In the middle of August, he
also communicates with the Russian cutout Guccifer 2[.0], and
authors a Breitbart piece
denying Guccifer’s links to Russian intelligence.
Then, later in August,
Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that
John Podesta’s personal emails will soon be published. “Trust me,"
he says, "it will soon [the] Podesta’s time in the barrel. #Crooked Hillary.”
In the weeks that follow, Stone shows a remarkable prescience: “I have
total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate
the American people soon," he says. "#Lockherup."
“Payload coming,” he predicts, and two days later, it does. Wikileaks releases its first batch of Podesta
emails. The release of John Podesta’s emails would then continue on
a daily basis up until the election.
On Election Day in November, Donald Trump wins. Donald Trump appoints
one of his high profile surrogates, Michael Flynn, to be his national
security advisor. Michael Flynn has been paid by the Kremlin’s
propaganda outfit, RT, in the past, as well as another Russian entity. In
December, Michael Flynn has a secret conversation with Ambassador Kislyak about
sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia over its hacking designed
to help the Trump campaign. Michael Flynn lies about this secret
conversation. The Vice President, unknowingly, then assures the country
that no -- no such conversation ever happened. The President is informed
that Flynn has lied, and Pence has misled the country. The President does
nothing. Two weeks later, the press reveals that Flynn has lied and the
President is forced to fire Mr. Flynn. The President then praises the
man who lied, Mr. Flynn, and castigates the press for exposing the lie.2
Now, is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the
GOP platform was a coincidence?
Is it a coincidence that Jeff Sessions
failed to tell the Senate about his meetings with the Russian
Ambassador, not only at the convention, but a more private meeting in
his office and at a time when the U.S. election was under attack by the
Is it a coincidence that Michael Flynn would lie about a
conversation he had with the same Russian Ambassador, Kislyak, about the
most pressing issue facing both countries at the time they spoke -- the
U.S. imposition of sanctions over Russian hacking of our election
designed to help Donald Trump?
Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas
company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British
Intelligence Officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page
was offered fees on a deal of just that size?
Is it a coincidence that
Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents
hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for
pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass?
Is it a coincidence
that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be a victim of a
Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even
before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that his private emails would
Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely
unrelated, and nothing more than a entirely unhappy coincidence?
it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that
they are not coincidental, not disconnected, and not unrelated, and that
the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they
employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet,
and we owe it to the country to find out.
Director Comey, what you see on the dais in front of you, in the form of
this small number of members and staff, is all we have to commit to this
investigation. This is it. We are not supported by hundreds or thousands
of agents and investigators, with offices around the world. It is just
us and our Senate counterparts. And in addition to this investigation,
we still have our day job, which involves overseeing some of the largest
and most important agencies in the country, agencies, which, by the way,
are trained to keep secrets.
I point this out for two reasons (and I'm -- I'm wrapping up, Chairman): First, because we cannot do this work
alone -- and nor should we. We believe these issues are so important that the
FBI must devote its resources to investigating each of them thoroughly;
to do any less would be negligent in the protection of our country. We
also need your full cooperation with our own investigation so that we
may have the benefit of what you know, and so that we may coordinate our
efforts in the discharge of both our responsibilities. And second, I
raise this because I believe that we would benefit from the work of an
independent commission that can devote the staff and resources to this
investigation that we do not have, and that can be completely removed
from any political considerations. This should not be a substitute for
the work that we, in the intelligence committees should and must do, but
as an important complement to our efforts, just as was the case after
The stakes are nothing less than the future of our democracy and liberal democracy.
Because we're engaged in a new war of ideas -- not communism versus capitalism,
but authoritarianism versus democracy and representative government. And
in this struggle, our adversary sees our political process as a
legitimate field of battle.
Only by understanding what the Russians did can we inoculate ourselves
from the further Russian interference that we know is coming. Only then can
we protect our European allies who are, as we speak, enduring
similar Russian interference in their own elections.
And finally, I want to say a word about our own committee investigation. You
will undoubtedly observe in the questions and comments that our members
make during today's hearing, that the members of both parties share a
common concern over the Russian attack on our democracy, but bring a
different perspective on the significance of certain issues, or the
quantum of evidence we have seen in the early -- earliest stages of this
investigation. This is to be expected. The question most people have
is whether we can really conduct this investigation in the kind of
thorough and nonpartisan manner that the seriousness of the issues
merit, or whether the enormous political consequences of our work will
make that impossible.
The truth is, I don’t know the answer. But I do
know this: If this committee can do its work properly, if we can pursue
the facts wherever they lead, unafraid to compel witnesses to testify,
to hear what they have to say, to learn what we will and, after
exhaustive work, reach a common conclusion, it would be a tremendous
public service and one that is very much in the national interest.
So let us try.