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Texans Castro, Conaway and Hurd grill Comey over Russian hack

U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, a Midland Republican, questioned FBI Director James Comey at Monday's hearing on whether the intelligence community was certain that Russia intended to help Donald Trump become president.

 (L-R) U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, Mike Conaway, R-Midland and Will Hurd, R-Elotes all serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

WASHINGTON – Members of the U.S. House who oversee the espionage arm of the American government – including some Texans – grilled two top government officials Monday morning over Russian hacking related to last year's presidential election.

The most dramatic moments of Monday's House Intelligence Committee hearing came early on, when FBI Director James Comey confirmed that his bureau is investigating whether Trump associates had ties with Russian intelligence and said he "had no information" to support recent tweets from President Trump that alleged former President Obama "had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory." 

At times, the hearing room of several hundred members, witnesses, reporters and observers from the public was dead silent as Comey spoke. 

U.S. Reps. Mike Conaway of Midland and Will Hurd of Helotes, both Republicans, and U.S. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, a Democrat, participated in the hearing, which also featured National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers as a witness.

Democrats mostly questioned Comey and Rogers over specific Trump allies, inquiries both witnesses declined to address specifically citing the classified nature of their investigations. Republicans, however, were predominantly interested in how information about the investigation leaked to news outlets and whether the bureau intended to investigate the disclosures. 

Hurd, a former undercover CIA officer who majored in computer sciences at Texas A&M, asked questions about the technical aspects of how the hack on the Democratic National Committee happened. He then followed up with queries over the FBI’s efforts to inform the DNC of the gravity of the hack, touching on claims that FBI officials didn't do enough to make DNC officials aware of the situation.

“I would have walked over there myself, knowing what I know now," Comey said.

Castro, who was one of the first officeholders to question whether any Americans colluded with the Russians in meddling in U.S. elections back in January, focused his inquiries at Monday's hearing on whether any Trump associates had ties to the Kremlin. Comey declined to answer nearly all of them.

Despite the severe topics, the hearing did provide a moment or two of levity, including during questioning from Conaway, a Midland Republican and the most senior Texan on the committee. Conaway pursued queries over U.S. intelligence assumptions that Russian President Vladimir Putin favored Trump because of a long-held hatred of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that dated back to her tenure as U.S. secretary of state. 

“Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was that he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much,” Comey said.

“Yeah, that might work on Saturday afternoon when my wife’s Red Raiders are playing the Texas Longhorns,” Conaway said. “She really likes the Red Raiders ... but the logic is that because [Putin] really didn’t like ... candidate Clinton, that he automatically liked Trump. That assessment is based on what?”

“It’s based on more than that, but part of it is ... the logic," Comey answered. "Whoever the Red Raiders are playing, you want the Red Raiders to win. By definition, you want their opponent to lose.”

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Congress Politics Joaquin Castro Mike Conaway Will Hurd