Comey: Russian hacking ‘massive effort’ against US elections – CNET

Russian hackers were meddling with the 2016 US election right from the start of the campaign season.

Former FBI director James Comey testified before a Senate Intelligence hearing on Thursday, a month after President Donald Trump fired him on May 9. The hearing, centered on Comey’s conversations with President Trump, comes amid the FBI’s investigations into potential campaign ties with Russia that continue to haunt the commander-in-chief.

Allegations of Russian influence on the US presidential election stretch all the way back before the midyear Democratic National Convention, when hackers spear-phished officials and released documents through WikiLeaks

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Former FBI Director James Comey testifies Thursday during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

Revelations about Russian hackers continued to surface through the months leading up to and following the November election, including the top-secret NSA report leaked on Monday, detailing how nation-state actors launched cyberattacks against an election software company, whose technology was used in eight states, and tried spear-phishing election officials.

During Thursday’s testimony, Comey said he first became aware of Russia-connected meddling in the late summer of 2015, around the time Trump announced he was running for president

“There was a massive effort to target government and nongovernmental agencies, like nonprofits,” Comey said. He noted that there could be hundreds, and possibly more than 1,000, officials who were targeted in the cyberattacks from Russia.

Comey told the Senate committee that the FBI never examined the DNC’s hacked devices directly, but received proper intelligence from a third-party (likely Crowdstrike).

The cyberattacks were among the factors that led the FBI to launch an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had any connections with Russian hackers. In Comey’s opening statement, released a day ahead of Thursday’s Senate committee hearing, the former FBI director detailed how Trump tried to stop the investigation on multiple occasions.

“He described the Russian investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country,” Comey said in his statement, regarding a March 30 conversation with Trump. “He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia.”

Comey confirmed that Trump wasn’t under investigation when he served as the FBI director. 

You can read his full opening statement here:

President Trump had been expected to live-tweet throughout the testimony, despite advice against that from his legal team, but no tweets from him appeared in the first hour.

The hearing kicked off at 10 a.m. ET, and CNET will be continuing coverage throughout the day. Please continue to check back for updates.

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