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  • FBI Director James Comey is on a collision course with President Trump over the president’s alleged ties to Russia and possible collusion during the election. (Photos: Getty)

    In an extraordinary congressional hearing unprecedented since the days of Watergate, FBI Director James Comey threw down the gauntlet on the agency’s investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign, presenting Trump with the greatest crisis of his short presidency.

    Comey seemed intent on sending a clear message, beyond the damning revelation that Trump is under investigation.

    His appearance before the committee today (Mar. 20) strongly suggested he will stand on his integrity come hell or high water to get to the bottom of the greatest threat to American democracy since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

    Comey seemed to fully understand the gravity of the situation and gave the impression he will be unwavering in his pursuit of justice.

    “I’ve been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said

    “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” he added.

    Comey said the investigation would encompass whether crimes were committed.

    It was a far cry from the denunciations and humiliation he suffered after throwing a Molotov cocktail into the presidential election just 11 days before voters went to the polls.

    He revealed in a letter to Congress that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server based on newly discovered emails on a laptop shared by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and then husband Anthony Weiner.

    It threw a presidential election already marred by an unprecedented lack of civility and foreign interference down an even darker, more dangerous corridor, politicizing the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency in defiance of the U.S. Attorney General and in violation of long-standing Department of Justice policy.

    Comey had said in July, after a lengthy investigation, that no responsible prosecutor would proceed with criminal charges against Clinton over her private email server.

    The humiliation came after Comey announced, three days before the election, no additional evidence was uncovered that would change his earlier decision on the case. Then, in December, another bombshell dropped.

    The search warrant on which Comey’s new investigation was based was very likely illegal. Clinton lawyer David Kendall said the documents showed “extraordinary impropriety” by Comey. His letter was “legally unauthorized and factually unnecessary,” he added.

    This time around, Comey’s steely resolve immediately threw the Trump administration into crisis. Not only does Trump have to worry about the findings of the investigation, but he also has to tread a very thin line to avoid obstructing justice, which could, in itself, lead to his impeachment.

    In another shocking revelation, Comey revealed that the FBI has been conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into Trump’s Russia ties since July, well before the November election. The revelation, however, raised a new question.

    Why did Comey keep the investigation secret, while revealing the FBI’s reopening of its Clinton email server investigation?

    Separately, Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers decimated Trump’s claims that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the election. The president leveled the charges in a series of tweets three weeks ago.

    Rogers also refuted wild accusations by Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano that “three intelligence officials” told him British intelligence wiretapped Trump on behalf of Obama.

    “I’ve seen nothing on the NSA side that we engaged in any such activity, nor that anyone ever asked us to engage in such activity,” he testified.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer tried to minimize today’s damage and said Trump would not back down on his wiretapping allegation, despite the pronouncements of his own administration officials.

    For Comey, it was a pivotal moment in his career He knows history will be judging him. Today, he established clearly that he intends to be a watchdog, not a Trump administration lapdog.

    But he’s charting a dangerous course against an unpredictable, vindictive and potentially dangerous chief executive.