WASHINGTON, U.S. - Many people in the U.S. blame FBI Director James Comey for single-handedly changing the fate of the presidential election, several others blame him for Hillary Clinton’s loss - but on Monday, Comey cast a dark cloud of doubt over the White House.
A situation that the country hasn’t faced since the Watergate.
In a rare public hearing by the House Intelligence Committee, Comey delivered more than one bombshell.
Comey and NSA director Alex Rogers testified about Russia's interference in the 2016 election and President Trump's wiretapping claims before the Congress and the House Intelligence Committee.
Comey, in his explosive statement, confirmed what many have only ben speculating, or quoting sources on - that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing whether Trump’s associates colluded with Russia, in a bid to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Comey, landing himself in the middle of a political storm, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a clear preference for whom he wanted to see as the next president - and it was not Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
This was the first time Comey publicly confirmed that his agency is investigating the possible collusion and whether any crimes may have been committed during the 2016 election campaign.
This, he said was part of a wider probe into the hacking of Democratic servers and the Clinton campaign.
In his opening statement to the committee, Comey said, “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.”
Further, for the first time, Democrats publicly highlighted information available about links between Trump associates and Russia.
Comey said, “They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him. I think all three we were confident in at least as early as December.”
"He - Putin - hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much."
Rogers meanwhile told the committee that there was no information that the Obama administration requested the British surveillance agency GCHQ to conduct eavesdropping on Trump.
He said, "No, sir, and nor would I, that would be expressly against the construct of the Five Eyes agreement that has been in place for decades."
Comey even predicted that Russia's efforts to disrupt American elections had not ended.
He warned, “They’ll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018. And one of the conclusions they may draw... is they were successful."
In more shocking comments, that not many would have expected him to be straightforward about, Comey said that he had no evidence to back up President Trump’s accusation that his predecessor, President Barack Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Comey told the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”
He added that the Justice Department, along with the FBI, had no information to support the allegations.
Comey went on to confirm that no president could order a wiretapping operation against a specific American citizen.
Comey now becomes one more official, along with several congressional leaders and intelligence officials who have denied having any evidence on Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.
Reports noted that this is the first time in more than half a century - since the Watergate scandal, that an American President faces an official investigation with such serious potential consequences.
Political historian Matthew Dallek, a professor at George Washington University and author of Defenseless Under the Night: The Roosevelt Years and the Origins of Homeland Security elaborated on the seriousness of Comey’s claims.
Dallek said, “The charges involved are more serious than anything we’ve seen in recent decades. That is far from a lone instance of an illegal leak or a president fudging the truth under oath about sex with a White House intern. While we obviously don’t know what evidence the FBI has assembled and whether anybody will ever be charged with a crime, the scope of the investigation appears to encompass at least several of Trump’s chief advisers and perhaps Trump himself."
As the hearing proceeded, Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer said that the President would not apologize to Obama for the accusations against him.
Spicer argued that there were questions still remaining about surveillance that may or may not have taken place during the campaign.
Meanwhile, as Comey testified, the official @POTUS Twitter account put up a tweet that said, “FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia.”
While another tweet declared, "The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process."