Trump blasts ‘Russia story’ as a ‘fake’ Democratic plot as FBI director prepares to testify

Just hours before FBI Director James Comey is set to testify before members of Congress regarding investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump dismissed the “Russia story” as a political ploy pushed by his Democratic rivals.

In what has become a typical occurrence under Trump, the president unleashed an early morning tweetstorm characterizing reports of a relationship between his team and Russia’s government as “fake news.”

Trump later deflected the conversation further by claiming the campaign of his 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, had contact with Russians during the election. Members of both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had emails stolen and leaked by Russian hackers, according to U.S. intelligence. The DNC‘s servers were examined by a third-party cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, and the resulting reports were shared with the FBI.

Leaked emails from the DNC and the inbox of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta caused further disarray in the hectic 2016 election season and are believed to have contributed to Trump’s victory. Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to have targeted Clinton as retaliation for her questioning the legitimacy of Putin’s election when she was secretary of state.

Comey will appear before the House Intelligence Committee at 10am ET on Monday morning for the first public examination of the U.S. government’s probes into Russia. But much of the hearing will likely revolve around Trump and his team.

While no evidence of collusion has been reported, multiple Trump advisers—including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn—communicated with Russian officials ahead of Inauguration Day. Sessions later recused himself of any potential investigations into Russia after reports revealed that he lied during his confirmation hearing about multiple meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and Flynn resigned after the public learned that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his pre-inauguration conversations with Kislyak.

Amid these Russian-related fallouts, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of having Trump Tower’s phones tapped prior to Election Day—a shocking accusation of illegal activity. Leaders of both the House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as other Republican and Democratic lawmakers, have said there is no evidence that the Obama administration surveilled Trump Tower. This issue will likely also be a major talking point during the hearing.

You can watch the hearing live on CNN below:

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