Ex-CIA Chief Says He Warned Russians About Election Meddling

Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday he doesn't know whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials in the 2016 election, but he left office in January with "unresolved questions" about whether Russia had been successful in getting Trump campaign officials to act on its behalf "either wittingly or unwittingly".

Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday that Russia "brazenly interfered in the 2016 election process", despite US efforts to warn it off. Brennan testified in an open session of the committee, one of a handful of congressional committees now investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

House investigators are particularly interested in finding out more about how Russia conducted its election attacks inside the United States and who Russian spies attempted to recruit to their side, said a House intelligence committee source.

Dan Coats, the current USA director of national intelligence, declined to comment Tuesday on a Washington Post report that said the president had asked him to publicly deny any collusion between Russian Federation and Trump's campaign. He said the contacts might have been benign.

"What I was very concerned about, though, is the subsequent releases of what appears to be classified information purporting to point to the originator of the information", Brennan said.

"I saw information and intelligence that was worthy of investigation by the bureau (FBI) to determine whether or not such cooperation or collusion was taking place", Brennan replied.

The committee is investigating Russia's campaign meddling and possible ties to President Donald Trump's associates.

I don't know why that is.

I know there was sufficient basis in intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether USA persons were actively conspiring and colluding with Russian officials.

But when Gowdy pushed him for an answer, Brennan revealed that "intelligence" had detected "contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign".

The panel will get two cracks at Brennan - the first in public at 10 a.m. ET and the second behind closed doors - nearly two months after his first appearance was dramatically canceled amid the chaos sparked by House intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes' clandestine White House trip.

Tuesday's public hearing represents an effort by the House Intelligence Committee to get its Russian Federation investigation back on track after political squabbling and concerns about information-sharing between its chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and White House aides sidelined the committee's work.

He declined to name the Trump officials. citing classified information.

Brennan said that people aren't always aware that they are interacting with Russian intelligence operatives, or that they are a target in a Russian influence campaign.

Brennan said that while he was Central Intelligence Agency director he shared classified information with Russian Federation and other nations about threats related to terrorism.

Brennan said Bortnikov denied that Russian Federation was meddling in the USA presidential election and said he would inform Putin of Brennan's comments.

"It should be clear to everyone that Russian Federation brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protest and explicit warnings that they not do so", Brennan said. The intelligence Trump shared has been reported to have come from Israel. He said there appear to be "very, very damaging leaks, and I find them appalling and they need to be tracked down".

Asked about Trump's decision to share the intelligence, Brennan said that classified intelligence is routinely shared with foreign governments but Trump still could have violated two protocols if he made a spontaneous decision to do so.

He also says that before sharing such classified intelligence with foreign partners, the US would go back to the intelligence partner that provided the information to make sure what was shared would not compromise operatives. "It's shared through intelligence channels, because it needs to be handled the right way and it needs to make sure it is not exposed". Brennan said he's studied Russian intelligence activities over the years, and how Russian intelligence services have been able to get people to betray their country. He told committee members there had not been a good relationship between Putin and the Clintons over the years.

What Brennan laid out Tuesday is a lot closer to the former view than the latter one held by Trump.

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