More than a month after his first appearance before the House committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and any potential coordination or collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, FBI director James Comey returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for another session of testimony. And one of his answers to a question by South Carolina senator Lindsay Graham has drawn a lot of attention: Comey said Russia is still involved in U.S. politics, raising the specter of some sort of ongoing interference or influence campaign.
To be clear, it's impossible to say for sure just what Comey meant when he affirmatively answered Graham's question. People who testify before these kinds of hearings are usually very careful and precise in the language they use, even more so for a career bureaucrat and experienced investigator like Comey.
As such, there's a wide range of possible interpretations of what he said, anywhere from the relatively benign ― that Russia is still engaged politically and diplomatically with the United States, which is entirely expected ― to the more serious, like the ongoing misinformation campaigns and hacks that plagued the 2016 presidential race. Here's the moment from the hearing today, when Graham asked Comey if the Russian government was "still involved in American politics."
Graham also got Comey to agree that such Russian involvement in American political affairs would not stop absent some sort of "price for interfering." It was an understandably dramatic moment, although just one out of many during the Wednesday hearing.
Notably, Graham also asked Comey to reaffirm his statement from his testimony back in March, that the FBI was conducting an active investigation into whether persons in the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the electoral process. Comey reiterated that this was true, meaning the investigation is still ongoing.
Comey's return to Capitol Hill is one of two hearings scheduled in the coming days which figure to be extremely high-profile. Although considering Comey already visited the committee last month, what's coming next week figures to be an even bigger deal.
On Monday, May 8, former acting attorney general Sally Yates is scheduled to appear, and will reportedly contradict the Trump administration's version of events regarding when and how they learned of conversations between former national security adviser Mike Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. In short, if you're the kind of person who loves watching high-stakes congressional testimonies, you're going to want to be near a TV when Monday rolls around.