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White House Press Briefing; House Intelligence Committee Hearings. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 20, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- that there is no collusion and that that's over. So while we can talk about an investigation, big picture holistically, the idea that so many people are trying to jump to a conclusion seems very, very misguided.

Zeek (ph) --

QUESTION: A few (ph) quick ones. First, (inaudible). Will you expect the intake (ph) to President Xi that summit that (inaudible) for next month to be -- was that extended (ph) on that trip, do you expect that to be taking place early April --

SPICER: I'll try to have more of a readout afterwards. I know that they're going to talk extensively about what he accomplished in both Japan, South Korea, and obviously in Beijing. But I'm going to let the Secretary of State debrief (ph) the President before I get ahead of deciding what was discussed in Beijing.

QUESTION: Back to the previous topic, I was hoping you could square the circle a little bit. You said in the case of the President's tweets that on this ongoing investigation, that more people (ph) would come out (ph) and they may justify that, but in the case of the collusion charges, listed all the people you said --

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: -- investigation there. Why in one case is that sufficient to say that there is no rule (ph) out collusion now, versus in the other case you'd say, oh, we need more information --

SPICER: Well I'm not -- because again, I think there's a difference -- I'm not ruling anything out. I'm merely explaining to you that every person, Republican, Democrat, Obama, that certainly the Obama administration across a broad section --

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SPICER: In terms of what?

QUESTION: That there (inaudible)

SPICER: But I think that there is -- on the investigation itself, we know from the people who have been briefed. On the other piece of it, we know that there -- it's an ongoing thing, and that even according to the Department of Justice, in terms of the information that's been provided, and Chairman Nunes, that they are still at the beginning of this process. That is a very different thing than a group of people saying, there is an ongoing investigation. And from what we've been briefed, there is no evidence to suggest any type of conclusion (ph). That's a difference. Hunter --

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean. On a slightly different topic, in his first eight weeks in office, President Trump has made at least 10 trips to the golf course. He regularly used to criticize President Obama for spending time on the course. How is his golf game any different? SPICER: Well I think two things. One is, you saw him utilize this as an opportunity with Prime Minister Abe to -- to help foster deeper relationships in Southeast Asia, in Asia, rather, and have a growing relationship that's going to help the U.S. interest. How you use the game of golf is something that he's talked about.

Secondly, you know, we went to -- down to -- he had a mini cabinet meeting the other day down -- or two weekends ago, down at his -- his club in Virginia, and I remember so many people jumping to the conclusion that he's going down and playing golf. Just because you go somewhere doesn't necessarily mean you done it (ph). So on a couple occasions, he's actually conducted meetings there. He's actually had phone calls. So just because he heads there doesn't mean that that's what's happening. So --

QUESTION: I know he did meet with Prime Minister Abe on the course, but we're not getting a lot of details on other high level meetings that are taking place. If he is having these productive meetings on the course, why isn't the President and his aids being a little more forthcoming about what he's doing?

SPICER: It's the same reason he can have dinner or lunch with somebody and not -- I think the President's entitled to a bit of privacy at some point. Which is what we've always agreed to. We bring the press pool, the protective pool to be there, but the President's also entitled to a bit of privacy as well.

QUESTION: Does the President believe the FBI will do a fair job of investigating any sort of links to Russia during the election? And then I have one more for you.

SPICER: I think there's a variety of institutions looking at it. Both the House and the Senate intelligence committee, the FBI -- but yes, I think that when you get to the bottom of it, it's -- we'll have a much better picture of what's happening, and I think it'll continue to vindicate him on that. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow up. The President tweeted this morning a question about a potential DNC connection to Russia during the election. Is he under the impression that the Clinton campaign had inappropriate contact with Russia during the election?

SPICER: Well, I think that there's -- and that's an interesting aspect of all of this that's not being covered. Number one, for everything that has been publicly available, on several occasions, the DNC was asked by the FBI to investigate -- or to allow their servers to be looked at, despite all of the claims of their concerns about leaking. And yet the question still doesn't come out, why wouldn't the DNC, on multiple occasions, rebuff the FBI? Why were they not wanting -- if they were so concerned about hacks and leaking, why did the DNC not ask the FBI to come look -- not only did they not ask them, the rebuffed them on multiple occasions. Why? What are they hiding? What were they concerned of?

But I think there is a serious question. It's not -- they -- they're very clear about the concerns that they have, as well as all of the leadership in the Democratic Party. And yet when it came to hacks and leaks out of the DNC, and they're quick to jump to the conclusion about who did it, and yet they wouldn't allow the FBI to investigate it. There's a whole second set of concerns here in terms of, what was Hillary Clinton's role?

You look at the Obama history, the Obama administration and the Clinton -- the Clintons' involvement with Russia in terms of donations that the Clintons received from Russian entities, the idea that they sold off a tremendous amount of the uranium to the Russian government, and yet, where was the concern for that? What are we doing to look into that?

It was the Obama administration 2009 that talked about a reset with Russia and a desire to reset relationships. It was Hillary Clinton that signed off on the deal that gave a Russian company 1/5 of the U.S. uranium supply. Where is the questioning about that? What did they get? There was a discussion the other day about a Russian official noting that both campaigns they sought to do it. Where's the concern about their efforts on the Hillary Clinton thing?

The Democrats -- Democratic Party and a lot of those individuals are quick to point fingers, and yet when it comes to discussing their own collusion or questions involving their involvement with Russian officials or buy offs to the Russians, there's no discussion there. So you've got to wonder on both sides, where's the parity when it comes to these kind of investigations? Margaret --

QUESTION: Sean, what constitutes (ph) (inaudible) President on this, when you say there's more to come forward? You've got the FBI Director saying nothing about the President's tweets about wiretapping. Former head of the DNI, House Intelligence Committee, I mean you've had a series of officials. So when does this end for the President? Is --

SPICER: It's not a question of a date. It's a question of where we get answers. You look at someone like Michael Flynn, and you ask the question, how does an American citizen, who should be protected by law from having their identity unmasked -- how does that happen? Because you got to think about it like this. The FBI and all of the relevant intelligence agencies have access to this document. They can figure out who it was, right. Hold on. So --

QUESTION: Who it was --

SPICER: In other words --

QUESTION: Wiretapping the President. That's the claim. SPICER: No, no, listen. I understand that. What I'm getting at is

that there's a lot of information that we have come to learn about what happened in terms of surveillance throughout the 2016 election and the transition. And when you look at somebody like Michael Flynn and you realize that while they might have been looking at somebody else at that time, how does somebody's name, that's protected by law from being disclosed, get put out in public? Why was it put out in the public? Because the people on the intelligence community would have had access to that information. They could've found out who it was.

But yet, you've got to question why was a name that should've been protected by law from being put out into the public domain put out there? What were the motives behind that? What else do we need to know?

Who was behind that kind of unmasking?

QUESTION: So, are you saying the president has evidence that we have....


SPICER: No, no. I -- I -- I am saying that there's a lot more questions that need to get asked about the involve -- what was being done in terms of surveillance? Who was being surveilled? Why were they being surveilled (ph)?

What techniques -- what -- why are certain people being sort of quote unmasked and -- and having their identity known? What was going on?

But there's a lot more questions than answers that need to get asked...

QUESTION: Who -- who does the president trust to provide those answers...


SPICER: We -- we talk about (ph)....

QUESTION: ...the heads of all those agencies.

SPICER: And -- and -- and it -- and we've talked about this ad nauseam that the House and the Senate intelligence committees are looking into this. Today is the first of several hearings that -- that Chairman Nunes intends to call.

Senator Burr has already talked about it. There is a ways to go. And I get that you guys want to know the end of the book right now. But we're on the first chapter of this process. Steve?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Nunes, he does trust that...

SPICER: Of course.


SPICER: We put out a statement saying so much that we asked them to look into it. So, I -- I don't think it should come to any surprise that that's where we have noted multiple times that that's where the president believes the appropriate place in the process in the (inaudible) for all of these documents to go through. Steve?

QUESTION: I understand he had a lot of meetings over the weekend on North Korea. Who were those meetings with? And what was his reaction to North Korea's test of this new rocket engine?

SPICER: Well, I -- I think we continue to be concerned with North Korea's activity. That's why not only have we continued to have conversations with officials in Japan and South Korea, but continue to -- to urge China to step in and to play a larger role in deterring both the ballistic and other missile threats that -- that the North Korea plays.

I -- I'm not -- I will try to have a further readout on some of those conversations. But I think there is growing concern about -- about North Korea. I think that is part of what Secretary Tillerson is going to be discussing with him during their meeting.

QUESTION: And did Tillerson get a -- a promise from China to weigh in more on North Korea?

SPICER: I think he sent a very clear signal that our policy of strategic patience is over. The president and secretary of State have an expectation that China employed multiple points of pressure on North Korea.

We didn't -- we know that we don't agree 100 percent of the time with China. But as the State Department noted yesterday, both President Xi and Secretary Tillerson agree that there are opportunities for greater cooperation between China and the United States and acknowledge that there are, and will be in the future, difference between the two countries.

But I think that Secretary Tillerson's trip continued to -- or help set us down that path. And I think that the follow-on meetings that the leaders intend -- intend to have will be helpful in -- in that -- in that vein.


QUESTION: Given the talk last week about the budget, the priorities for the American tax dollars, the need to cut programs like -- you know, or make cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels and the art (ph). Is the president going to consider curbing some of his trips to Mar A Lago, as the GAO estimates could cost $3 million for a trip for the president to Palm Beach?

Is he planning to cut those back at all, given his feelings about the priorities for the Americans' tax dollars?

SPICER: I -- I think that is a -- a vast reach to suggest. I mean, the -- the presidents --presidents always traveled. And I think the president, wherever he goes, he carries the apparatus of the White House with us. That is just something that happens.

The president will continue to go and travel around the country and have meetings to solve the nation's problems.

And again, I think just with -- 'cause I know you took a little bit of a shot there -- I think even the Washington Post, which is no friend to -- to -- to conservatives, even they sided with us that these false sort of narratives on Meals on Wheels. It's not a federal program.

Three percent of their total budget comes from a block grant that's passed through there (ph). It's a state-run program. They had apparently a phenomenal weekend this week. I get that that's a cute program to point at, but it is false and misleading to try to make that narrative stick.

QUESTION: So I note, to your point, that all presidents travel. No president has travelled so often and so early to their own private residence --

SPICER: President Bush went to Crawford (ph). I mean, there are places -- I get it. I get it. But at the same time, the President's very clearly that he's worked seven days a week. This is where he goes to see his family. He brings people down there. This is part of being president. John (ph) --

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. Turning back to the meeting with Chancellor Merkel on Friday, did the President and the Chancellor discuss the economic crisis in Greece at all? And given the appointment of two officials to the Treasury Department who have been critical of the International Monetary Fund, does the administration see a new or different role for the IMF in resolving the Greek economic crisis?

SPICER: Let me refer you to the Treasury Department and IMF. I think the readout that we provided on the Secretary's -- on the Chancellor's visit, rather, excuse me, speaks for itself. They spoke at length as far as what they discussed and what they meant, so I'm not going to step on that. Francesca --

QUESTION: Thank you. Are you aware of any White House officials that are under investigation by the FBI?

SPICER: No. QUESTION: OK. And, you mentioned the hangers on in the campaign earlier, and Carter Page, but there was also a question about Roger Stone. Was he also in that category? Is he someone that the President is still in frequent contact with? Because he's often called an informal adviser to the President and a confidant of him.

SPICER: Mr. Stone is somebody the President has known for a long time. They -- he worked briefly on the campaign, I think until about August 2015, from recollection. But they -- they have talked from time to time, but I don't think anytime recently. But they had a long relationship going back years where you provide counsel, and again, he played a role early on in his campaign, but ended that role in August of 2015, and I don't know at all when the last time they even spoke was.

QUESTION: Sean, did the -- in the meeting this morning with Gates, did the President's cut in NIH funding come up? And how does he square meeting with Gates and sort of focusing on this whole mean (ph) to continue medical research, and then at the same time want to cut medical research funding by such a large amount?

SPICER: I know they talked about cures and health, and I think he applauds a lot of the work that they've done overseas in particular. I don't have a full read on that yet, but I'll try to get you more on it. There's -- but look, we've discussed the NIH in particular. I think that there's this assumption in Washington that if you don't spend more on a subject, that you're not caring as much. When you look at some of the agencies and departments and programs that we've seen, in many cases, they're not meeting their mission. And I think there are cost savings that can be achieved and so that you can focus the dollars that are being allocated towards a more effective use of the mission at hand.

[14:14:45] But, you know, it's interesting - I mean only in Washington do you literally judge the success of something by how much money you throw at the problem, not actually whether it's solving the problem or coming up with anything.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to continue to monitor the Sean Spicer briefing over at the White House.

I want to go back to the House Intelligence Committee hearing right now. James Comey, the FBI director, is being questioned. Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, is being questioned as well.

[14:15:10] REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: -- to an intelligence analysis.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I - I do, Mr. Stewart. And I should add - I should emphasize something that Admiral Rogers said earlier. We made no judgement on whether the Russians were successful in any way in having an impact on the election. I just want to be clear, that - that's not in the report because we didn't opine on it. We didn't -- that's not within our -- our...

STEWART: I understand that, but we're looking at Russian activities. And we're making a conclusion of why they did that. In this case, that they preferred one -- one candidate over the other. I was in Moscow last August. I came home and I did some media interviews and talked to some folks. And I said, they're gonna mess with our elections. And that wasn't based on any intelligence analyst or specific information, this was just based on history, we knew that they would. And I was always asked, well, who do they want to win?

And I said then, I don't think they care. I don't think they A, could believe they could determine who would win and others (ph), as we've said here a number of times, they just want to break down the foundation, they just want to break the trust in our institutions. They want to take away that faith we have in our electoral process. And by the way, the intelligence community agreed with us, with me, on that analysis. For a long, long time, up until December. And then suddenly, they didn't.

And was when the president asked for this report and he asked for it to be concluded very quickly and then the analysis changed entirely. And -- and it went from no, no, no, they don't really care to no, no, they want Mr. Trump to win. And I think there's another plausible explanation, which is what I want to talk about in the few minutes that I have remaining. Let me begin by asking you, do you think that the Russians expected Secretary Clinton to win the election?

COMEY: Yes, as of August certainly, August, September.


Mr. Rogers?


STEWART: OK. Well, look, Mr. Comey you indicated as of August, September, do you believe they ever came to a conclusion that you know what? Mr. Trump's going to win.

COMEY: No, our -- the assessment of the intelligence community was that early on, they thought he might have a shot. And so they wanted to mess with our election, hurt our country in general, that's always the baseline. They hated her, Secretary Clinton, wanted to harm her and thought they might have a chance to help Mr. Trump. And then later, concluded that Mr. Trump was hopeless and they would focus then on just trying to undermine Secretary Clinton, especially with the European allies.

STEWART: Got that, so up -- up until summer and through the fall, they believe that Secretary Clinton would win, is that true?

COMEY: I think the assessment was, late in the summer, they concluded based on the polling I think a lot of people were reading, that Mr. Trump didn't have a chance. And they shifted to just focusing on just trying to undermine her.

STEWART: And I tell you, if you were to tell me and I know you didn't but I'm just saying, if anyone were to tell me that they concluded Mr. Trump is going to win. I'd just say they're nuts, because there was no one in the world who thought that. Every media organization, every political organization, every government organization that I'm familiar with last fall thought that Secretary Clinton would be the next President of the United States.

COMEY: I think the Russians agreed.

STEWART: I -- absolutely they did agree. Then this is the point and this is such a fine line, but it's such an important point, and that is how can you know for certain if the Russians were motivated by hurting the person they thought in fact, fully expected was going to be the next President of the United States and comparing that with a mode (ph) of this kind of a Hail Mary pass. You know what, maybe this guy's got a shot. Let's try and help him get elected because those motives would be -- and that's -- that' again coming back to my original point, determining motives is very difficult.

You have to either have very direct information or you have to be able to get inside someone's head and really figure out what it is that's driving them. And knowing the Russians expected Secretary Clinton to win, would you see that some of those things that they've done would be consistent with undermining her presidency, not necessarily because they thought Mr. Trump was going to win and they wanted help.

COMEY: Again, I think it's too close related sides of the same coin. I mean, to put it in a homely metaphor, I hate the New England Patriots and no matter who they play, I'd like them to lose. And so I'm at the same time rooting against the Patriots and hoping their opponent beats them. Because only two teams on the field but what the intelligence community concluded was early on, the hatred for Mrs. Clinton was -- was all the way along.

When Mr. Trump became the nominee, there was some sense that it'd be great if he could win, be great if we could help him. But we need to hurt her to matter what and then it shifted to he has no chance so let's just focus on undermining her. That was the judgment of the intelligence community.

ROGERS: Well, I'd also if I could highlight, I acknowledge the challenge at times about trying to understand intent, but the level -- we're not going to go in any specifics in an open unclassified forum. But the level of sourcing, the multiple sources we had, which were able to independently corroborate the judgment. And there's a reason why we were high confidence in everything, except just one issue.


ROGERS: To include the intent.

STEWART: I understand. I spent some time out at the CIA last week. I went -- was with the staff as best we could, through the 2000 some odd pages and by the way, not many people did. And some people are casting, you know, aspersions, and not making the effort to go out there and actually look at that.

But I'm telling you that having done that, I think a reasonable person could say what I've said here today, that there is another -- another element to this. That there is another, as you said Mr. Comey, another side of the coin. And this is a very, very difficult to, in my opinion, thing to say with high levels of confidence. Which is why, once again the intelligence community isn't perfect sometimes. And we do make mistakes.

And Mr. Chairman, I yield back. I'd like to come back for just a few minutes if we could after.

NUNES: Gentleman yields back.

Mr. Schiff's recognized.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Just a couple of quick follow up questions by myself and Mr. Himes and then we'll go to Mr. Castro.

Director, you were asked about the Director Clapper's comments and I think your response indicated that they were correct as far as the unclassified intelligence assessment goes.

COMEY: Yes. I understood the question to be about the report itself.

SCHIFF: I want to make it clear to people though the intelligence assessment -- the unclassified intelligence assessment doesn't discuss the issue of U.S. person coordination with the Russians. And I assume that's because at the time of the report in January of this year that was under an investigation that you have now disclosed, is that right?

COMEY: Correct. The counterintelligence investigation is the FBI's business. The IC report was about what the intelligence community had about what Russia had done. So there is nothing in the report about coordination writing like that. It's a separate responsibly the FBI to try and understand that, investigate it and -- and assess it.

SCHIFF: So we shouldn't read Mr. Clapper's comments as suggesting that he takes a different view of whether you had sufficient -- sufficiently credible information and evidence to initiate a FBI counterintelligence investigation.

COMEY: I don't know exactly what he meant. All I can say is what -- what the fact is which as we just laid out. There's the report and then there's our investigation.

SCHIFF: And the report doesn't cover the investigation?

COMEY: Correct.

SCHIFF: Mr. Himes?

HIMES: Thank you, Mr. Schiff.

Gentlemen, in my original questions to you, I asked you whether the intelligence community had undertaken any sort of study to determine whether Russian interference had had any influence on the electoral process and I think you told me the answer was -- was no.

COMEY: Correct.

ROGERS: Correct, we said the U.S. intelligence community does not do analysis or reporting on the U.S. political process or U.S. public opinion, that is not our...


HIMES: OK. So thanks to the modern technology that's in front of me right here, I've got a tweet from the president an hour ago, saying the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process so that's not quite accurate, that tweet?

COMEY: I'm sorry, I haven't been following anybody on Twitter while I've been sitting here...

HIMES: I can read it to you. It says the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral -- the electoral process. This tweet has gone out to millions of Americans, 16.1 million to be exact. Is the tweet, as I read it to you, the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process. Is that accurate?

COMEY: Well, it's hard for me to react to that, let me just tell you what we understand the -- the state of what we've said is. We've offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it's never something that we looked at.

HIMES: OK. So it's not too far of a logical leap to conclude that your -- that the assertion that you have told the Congress that there was no influence on the electoral process is not quite right?

COMEY: Right, it wasn't -- it certainly wasn't our intention to say that today because we don't have any information on that subject. And that's not something that was looked at.

HIMES: Right.

Admiral Rogers, before I -- before I yield back to the ranking member, there's another tweet that says NSA Director Rogers tells Congress unmasking individuals endangers national security. My understanding was, as a member of the committee, that there is a lengthy and very specific process for the unmasking but that it does not inherently in of itself endanger national security.

ROGERS: I assume the comment is designed to address the leaking of such information, but again, I -- I have not read what you're saying to me so I'm not in a position to comment on it, sir.

HIMES: Thank you, I'll yield back to the ranking member.

SCHIFF: Mr. Castro?

CASTRO: Thank you. And thank you gentlemen for your service to the nation and for your testimony today. I wanna take a moment to turn the Christopher Steele dossier, which was first mentioned in the media just before the election and published in full by media outlets in January. My focus today is to explore how many claims within Steele's dossier are looking more and more likely, as though they are accurate. First, let me ask you, can you describe who Christopher Steele is?

COMEY: No, I'm not gonna comment on that.

CASTRO: Are you investigating the claims made in the dossier?


COMEY: I'm not gonna comment on tha, Mr. Castro.

CASTRO: OK. Well, the reputation of the author, Christopher Steele is a former accomplished British intelligence officer with a career built on following Russia is important. This is not someone who doesn't know how to run a source and not someone without contacts. The allegations it raises about President Trump's campaign aids connections to Russians, when overlaid with known established facts and timelines from the 2016 campaign are very revealing. So let's begin.

In general, as my colleagues have discussed before, is it true that a large number of oligarchs and wealthy businessman in Russia have profited from their continuing close relationships or cooperation with the Kremlin?

ROGERS: Can you say that one more time sir...


ROGERS: I want to make sure I understand.

CASTRO: Have oligarchs and wealthy folks in Russia profited from their connection to the Kremlin?


CASTRO: And, there are no free lunches in Russia. If you get wealthy under Putin, it's because you support Putin and are expected to support him. Is that fair to say?

ROGERS: I would assume there's a perception of his banage (ph), but I would assume it also varies by the specifics and the particular...


ROGERS: ... individual and relationship we're talking about.

CASTRO: OK. But Putin never distrusts, he verifies, right? As a former KGB man, he wants to keep tabs on his wealthiest citizens, especially those that could ever pose a challenge to him. Is that right?

ROGERS: I assume he maintains knowledge of the situation around him to include particular centers of influence within Russia.

CASTRO: Thank you. So, is it likely that the Kremlin would accept or actively trade favors or other valuable or sensitive information, intelligence from foreign figures about Russian oligarch or wealthy businessmen living abroad?

ROGERS: Is it possible? Yes, but again, it depends on the particulars of the situation. I don't know that I would make a flat statement...

CASTRO: But it's certainly a possibility.

ROGERS: It's a possibility.

CASTRO: OK. Well, the dossier definitely seems right on these points. A quid pro quo relationship seems to exist between the Trump campaign and Putin's Russia.

A July 19, 2016 entry for example asserts that Russians were receiving intel from Trump's team on Russian oligarch and their families in the United States. An entry from June 20, 2016 states quote, "Trump and his inner circle have accepted regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his democratic and other political rivals," which is something for something.

A July 30 entry likewise states that a source close to the Trump campaign confirms a regular exchange with the Kremlin has existed for at least eight years, including intelligence being fed back to Russia on oligarch activities in the United States. Is it generally true that Moscow actively seeks and supports, whether through the oligarch, overt Russian officials or undeclared intelligence officers, sympathetic or cooperative foreign figures abroad, whether through business dealings or political backing or a combination of the two.


ROGERS: Generally, it's a tactic we have seen over time, but again, I would caution us -- we're talking about very specific cases theoretically here and I'm not prepared to get into any of the specifics.

CASTRO: And I know that my colleagues have touched upon this, but I think it's important in the context of Christopher Steele's dossier to bring it up again. So, my question is, is it likely or plausible that the Russians might seek out Americans for Moscow's purposes.

COMEY: It is one of the focuses of our counterintelligence mission to try to understand the ways in which they try to do that, that's at the core of their intelligence gathering, is trying to coop recruits -- Americans -- to give them information.

CASTRO: So, the dossier states in an entry dated August 10, 2016, that a quote "Kremlin official involved in U.S. relations" suggested that Moscow might offer assistance to quote "sympathetic U.S. actors." Does this sound like a plausible tactic out of the Russian playbook?

COMEY: I'm not going to comment on that, Mr. Castro.

CASTRO: OK. Now, let's get even more specific. Among the U.S. actors, this Kremlin official mentions a Carter Page and Michael Flynn, whom my colleagues have already discussed at length and which the dossier describes as quote "examples of successes by the Kremlin official."

We know that Carter Page went to Moscow on July 7 to give a speech to the new economic school. We're in possession of the slide deck from his speech there. And we know Carter Page obtained approval from the Trump camp from Trump campaign manager at the time, Corey Lewandowski, as reported in Politico, citing national security campaign official, J.D. Gordon.

CASTRO: Now, let me ask you another question with respect to somebody else. Is it correct that Igor Sechin, the president of Russian oil giant, Rosneft, is a former member of Russian intelligence and a long- time aide and confident of Vladimir Putin.

COMEY: Not going to answer that, Mr. Castro.

[14:30:00] REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Now, let me ask you another question with respect to somebody else. Is it correct that Igor Sechin, the president of Russian oil giant Rosneft, is a former member of Russian intelligence and a long-time aide and confidant to Vladimir Putin.

COMEY: I'm not going to answer that.