Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning, former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan said that the CIA had intelligence information showing “contacts” between Russian government officials and people in the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign — and that classified documents now in the hands of the congressional investigators reveal the names of those people.
In fact, Brennan said that as far back as last August, he gave “full details” of what the CIA knew about the Trump campaign Russia contacts and Russian efforts to influence the United States presidential election to Congress, including to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a National Public Radio account of the former intelligence chief’s testimony.
Brennan said that the CIA found that Russia “brazenly interfered” in the election and that the Russian operation was “clear” to him last summer.
“I was aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about,” the 61-year-old Brennan testified to the committee. He went on to say that the information that the CIA uncovered caused him to question whether some specific individuals had become essentially Russian agents, cooperating with the Russians in the election-influencing operation.
The FBI was, and still is investigating the Trump Russia contacts, and Brennan told the committee on Tuesday, “I felt as though the FBI investigation was certainly well founded and needed to look into these issues.”
Watch Brennan discuss the CIA intelligence with Republican committee member Trey Gowdy, in the video below.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 23, 2017
Back to Gowdy, who asks Brennan if he saw evidence of collusion/conspiracy b/w Trump and Russians. He keeps trying. Brennan can’t answer.
— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) May 23, 2017
While Gowdy pressed Brennan to say whether he had seen “evidence” of those contacts, Brennan said that the CIA does not deal in “evidence” but in “intelligence.” But the former CIA director’s remarks regarding the “well-founded” nature of the FBI investigation directly contradict Trump’s assertion that the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties is “a witch hunt.”
Brennan stopped short of testifying that “collusion” existed between the Trump campaign members and Russian officials, saying simply “I don’t know,” whether the intelligence he saw indicated collusion. But Brennan also said that he was “worried” by the contacts between the Trump campaign members and Russian because Russia has a long history of attempting to recruit Americans to work for Russia “wittingly or unwittingly.”
The Russians and the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, were “rooting” for Trump to win the election, but they also were attempting to sabotage the candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton, the candidate who was expected by the Russians to win the election, Brennan said. If Clinton had, in fact, won the election and become president, the Russians “were trying to hurt her” in order to damage her presidency, he added.
At the same time, the Russians wanted Trump to win and “actions they were taking were to increase his prospects,” Brennan said. Brennan also said that the Russians likely had further damaging information on Clinton that they had acquired as part of their hacking operation, and they would have released that information during Clinton’s eventual presidency to weaken her.
Committee members also asked Brennan about Trump’s revelation of highly classified information in his Oval Office meeting with two top Russian officials on May 10, and Brennan responded that Trump apparently violated two “protocols” required before classified information is revealed to foreign governments.
“Classified intelligence is not shared with visiting foreign ministers or local ambassadors, it’s shared through intelligence channels because it needs to be handled the right way and needs to make sure it’s not exposed,” Brennan said.
“Secondly, before sharing any classified intelligence with foreign partners, it needs to go back to the originating agency to make sure that the language in it is not — even just providing the substance — going to reveal sources or methods and compromise the future collection capability,” Brennan added. “It appears as though, at least from the press reports, that neither did it go in the proper channels nor did the originating agency have the opportunity to clear language for it. That is a problem.”
[Featured Image by Russian Foreign Ministry Photo/AP Images]