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National security expert weighs in on investigation involving Trump campaign, Russia

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -

It probably won't end like Watergate, but it is unprecedented.

That's what a local national security expert says about the FBI looking for possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian hackers who may have swayed 2016 election results.

Monday, FBI Director James Comey testified that his agency is in the middle of the counterintelligence investigation.

Professor Michael Desch, director of Notre Dame’s International Security Center, says the whole situation is unusual.

“The issue they’re going to keep looking into is possible links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and individuals in Russia that may have connections to the Russian government,” Desch said.

Desch isn’t just a scholar of the US Intelligence Community, he used to work for it.

He knows what this investigation, which started last summer, could look like.

“The main issue or the main data that they’ll look at will be communications intercept, whether emails or phone calls,” Desch said.

Comey’s reaction to this investigation has been compared and contrasted to the Clinton email probe.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was never charged with criminal activity, but Desch says the two investigations aren't alike.

“It is a little bit apples and oranges. A counterintelligence investigation, first of all, is generally kept secret because you don’t want the other side to know you may be on to something,” Desch said.

Desch implies even if the FBI on to something, it’s highly unlikely criminal charges will be filed.

They rarely are in such cases.

“It could take years. They’re really hard to conduct and often they don’t end up with definitive resolution,” Desch says.

As for the possibility of impeachment, Desch says that is even more far-fetched.

“I don’t think you’re likely to see the sort of smoking gun evidence that could lead to impeachment,” Desch said.

However the ‘smoking gun,’ in the court of public opinion could be the other revelation from Monday's Comey hearing, that President Trump’s wiretap claims are false.

Desch says this is a distraction from the heavy surveillance still going on elsewhere, and hurts Trump’s credibility and approval.

“What he does by blaming president Obama for something that the former president undoubtedly had no involvement with, sort of obscures the real issue which is that we live in a much more intrusive surveillance environment now than at any point in the past,” Desch said.

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