White House tries to shift discussion amid FBI director’s testimony

WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer, reacting to news from the first day of House Intelligence Committee hearings into the 2016 election, tried to steer reporters away from questions about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials — and onto the administration’s preferred topic, news media leaks about intercepted conversations involving fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Spicer’s customary daily press briefing took place in the afternoon as FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency head Mike Rogers were still testifying. Earlier in the day, Comey said he had “no information” to support Trump’s claim that his predecessor, President Obama, wiretapped his campaign — a widely anticipated statement that did not lead to a retraction by the White House.

Trump’s press secretary minimized reports of contact between Russian officials and Trump campaign figures, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was described by Spicer as having played “a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”

Spicer began the briefing with a statement noting Comey’s confirmation that the FBI is investigating Russia’s role in the presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community has alleged that Russia interfered in the race in an effort to boost Trump’s campaign. Spicer said the president “is happy that they’re pursuing the facts on this” and pointed out that no official has said there is evidence Trump’s campaign was part of these efforts.

“Following this testimony, it’s clear that nothing has changed. Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm that there is no evidence of a Trump-Russia collusion,” Spicer said.

Spicer added that there was “new information that came from the hearing that we believe is newsworthy,” referring to “the unmasking of Americans identified in intelligence reports and the illegal leak of such unmasked…

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