US President Donald Trump weighed in Monday to deny Russia-linked meddling in the 2016 US elections, before the first word on that very topic could be uttered at a public hearing before the Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives.
"The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign," blasted Trump via Twitter, firing with both barrels against allegations Russian officials exercised undue influence on his campaign last year - the topic set to be discussed at the panel on Monday.
FBI director James Comey is to testify during the session which, according to a Monday statement from the committee, was called as part of its "investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign."
US intelligence agencies last year declared that hacking against Democratic Party organizations, which led to leaks of embarrassing information about the left-leaning party and its presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, was very likely directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.
The furore about the claims has mushroomed in recent months, with allegations that Russian officials held sway over Trump's campaign having dogged his young administration for weeks now.
Those charges have proven hard to shake, given that Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, had to resign after it emerged that he lied about contact with Russian officials before entering office.
Similarly, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been accused of lying about meetings with Russian officials.
But Trump, in his tweets, stood firm, noting that former director of national intelligence James Clapper said during a televised interview Sunday that he was not aware of any evidence linking Trump or his team to Russia.
"James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!," tweeted Trump.
Trump suggested the Democrats spread the story out of embarrassment at losing an election they entered with a big advantage in the Electoral College.
Comey is also expected to discuss Trump's claims, which he has failed to back up with any evidence, to have been wiretapped by the government under his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Clapper said during his Sunday interview that there was no evidence of that, as have congressional leaders who have reviewed the charges.
But Trump was having none of it, using his tweets to instead argue that the true problem is that so much information about the inner workings of his administration are being leaked to the media.
"The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of classified information. Must find leaker now!" he tweeted.
As president, Trump has the authority to direct the FBI to launch such a probe.
Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, which is responsible for overseas electronic surveillance, is on Monday's witness list from the Intelligence Committee.
Last week, Comey briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee in private about Russian election meddling, amid questions about possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Congressman Devin Nunes, a California Republican and chairman of the committee, said Sunday that Obama did not "go and physically wiretap something. So if you take the president [Trump] literally, it didn't happen."
"Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No," Nunes told US broadcaster Fox News.
Trump, who first tweeted the wiretapping claim on March 4, last week predicted that "some very interesting items" would be revealed regarding his allegations.