WASHINGTON – Many news stories about possible collusion between Trump staffers and Russian officials have been “dead wrong,” former FBI Director James Comey said calmly during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Articles about the Russia investigation that are based on leaks from unidentified sources are consistently inaccurate and become problematic for the FBI, he said.
“There have been many, many stories based on — well, lots of stuff, but about Russia that are dead wrong,” Comey said.
He specifically denounced a Feb. 14 New York Times story titled “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence” after Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) inquired about it.The story alleges that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the Nov. 2016 election, according to four current and former American officials,” the Times wrote.
Cotton asked if that story was “almost entirely wrong” and Comey said, “In the main, it was not true.”
Comey said inaccurate stories are frustrating because the FBI does not, as a practice, comment on its investigations.
“The challenge – and I’m not picking on reporters – about writing stories about classified information, is the people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on, and those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it,” Comey said. “We don’t call the press and say, ‘Hey, you got that thing wrong.’ ”
The Times ran a correction to the story, saying it had overstated the number of people whom the FBI has examined.
This week CNN corrected a report that Comey would testify that he never told Trump that he was not the target of an investigation. Comey confirmed that he did indeed tell Trump three times that he was not personally the target of an FBI investigation, as the president wrote in his May 9 letter to Comey firing him.
In tweets and speeches, Trump repeatedly blasts the media for its use of unnamed sources and dismisses many stories about his administration, referring to them as “fake news.”