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Trump defends himself on Twitter against accusations he colluded with Russia to win the election

As the House Intelligence Committee prepares for its first public hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election, President Trump took to Twitter to defend himself against suggestions that he or people close to him had colluded with Moscow.

The story line is "fake news" pushed by Democrats, Trump declared.

Two politically fraught, related stories are expected to come together at Monday's hearing.

FBI Director James B. Comey is set to testify about the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russian spy agencies used cyberattacks and other tactics to influence the presidential race. He'll likely get questions about whether the FBI is currently investigating possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Lawmakers are also expected to ask Comey whether the FBI conducted wiretapping or other secret surveillance of Trump or his associates before or after the 2016 election

Trump has been under fire for tweets that accused President Obama, without evidence, of wiretapping Trump's phones during the campaign.

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), said on “Fox News Sunday” that "there never was" a wiretap at Trump Tower. Other congressional leaders of both parties have similarly debunked Trump's accusation.

Nunes also said he has seen “no evidence of collusion” between Russia and Trump or Trump's associates.

Earlier in this month, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he could deny that he'd seen any evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. 

"James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia," Trump wrote Monday, referring himself by an acronym for President of the United States. "This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!"

A few minutes later, Trump wrote another tweet, saying: "The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign."

But several of Trump's campaign staff and close associates had contacts with Russian officials. Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn, for example, had direct contacts with Russia's ambassador in Washington and was paid tens of thousands of dollars by a state-owned Russian television channel.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee fired back at Trump Monday morning, taking aim at Trump's track-record of making unsubstantiated claims.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) wrote on Twitter: "Mr. President, the Russians hacked our election and interfered. No one disputes this now, but you. This is what is called 'fact'."

Schiff has said the committee should be looking for evidence Moscow worked with Trump's inner circle to sway the election as well as any effort to cover up Trump's links to Russia.

"At the outset of the investigation, there was circumstantial evidence of collusion," Schiff  told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "There was direct evidence, I think, of deception," Schiff added.

Trump has repeatedly promised to ferret out government officials who are talking to the press about investigations into contacts between his team and Russia.

"The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!" Trump wrote Monday.

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