There was "no doubt" that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections, or that the Russian government was behind the intrusions in the DNC's servers and the subsequent leaks, former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday, but at the same time, he said he is confident no votes were altered.
"When I left as director, I had seen no indication of that whatsoever," Comey told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the potential of Russian collusion with President Donald Trump's campaign staff and interference in the 2016 election.
Further, he told Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-NC, that Trump never asked him at any time, "to my understanding" to stop the FBI's investigation into Russian involvement in the election.
However, Trump did ask him to drop the investigation into former National Security Agency Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia.
"General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy," said Comey. "There was an open criminal investigation in his connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts, themselves. So that was my assessment at the time. I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special council will work towards to find out the intention and whether that's an offense."
He also said it is possible that the FBI could find evidence of Russian criminal actions that have nothing to do with the election cycle.
"In any complex investigation, when you turn over a rock, sometimes you find things that are unrelated to the primary investigation criminal in nature," said Comey.
Comey also testified that it is normal for foreign governments to reach out to members of an incoming presidential administration, but it's difficult to say when normal contacts cross the line.
"Again, it's difficult to answer in the abstract," said Comey. "But when a foreign power is using, especially coercion, or some sort of pressure to try to co-opt an American official, it's serious for the FBI and at the heart of the counterintelligence mission."
Comey also commented on his decision not to pursue criminal charges against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, admitting it was influenced in an "ultimately conclusive way" by the meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and ex-President Bill Clinton.
"I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the Justice Department," he said.
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