Published: Wed, May 24, 2017
Life&Culture | By Rose Hansen

John Brennan: Russia Interfered In US Election Process

John Brennan: Russia Interfered In US Election Process

Former CIA chief John Brennan has said the agency had proof of contacts between Russian Federation and members of United States president Donald Trump's campaign team past year, but he stopped short of accusing members of the Trump team of "collusion" with Russian Federation.

"The experts provided regular updates and assessments through the summer and fall, which we used to inform senior USA officials, including President Obama", he said.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a Senate panel Tuesday he would not comment reports that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, as well as the head of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny any collusion. The panel had sought a wide range of information and documents about his and the Trump campaign's contacts with Russians dating back to June 2015. He repeatedly refused on the grounds that the CIA is not an investigative or law enforcement agency, saying instead that he had encountered intelligence revealing contacts between "persons involved in the Trump campaign" and Russian officials and that he had passed the material on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"I encountered and am 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 because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals", Brennan told the commitee.

In testimony, Mr. Brennan explained the basis for the Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence investigation that was opened after the election, which is looking at potential collusion between the campaign and Russian Federation. Brennan said he briefed then President Barack Obama and other top officials, and that he discussed the matter with both Republican and Democratic U.S. congressional leaders in August and September.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to end an investigation into Mr. Flynn, his former national security adviser, according to people close to Mr. Comey.

Brennan led the CIA during a critical period a year ago when USA intelligence agencies reached the conclusion that Russian Federation was not only attempting to disrupt the US election but was actively seeking to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump. Moscow has denied the allegation. Mr. Trump has said continuing questions about his campaign's Russian Federation contacts amount to a "witch hunt".

Emphasizing that Russia "brazenly interfered in our 2016 present election process and that they undertook these activities, despite our strong protests and expose a warning that they not do so", Brennan said he spoke with Russian FSB head Alexander Bortnikov early last August, in which he "raised the published media reports of Russian attempts to interfere in our upcoming presidential election". When he left office, "I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting USA persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf". Brennan said it was possible for someone to be helpful to the Russian cause without realizing it. Notably, Brennan described in depth the nature of Russian recruitment efforts, saying that Russian intelligence will often try to "suborn individuals" to act in the Kremlin's favor either wittingly or unwittingly.

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Republicans on the committee pushed Brennan about whether there was evidence of collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, a point President Donald Trump has tried to enlist allies to quash.

Nevertheless, Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said Coats and NSA director Mike Rogers should provide explanations.

"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, but declined to elaborate.

Earlier this month, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified that she expected White House officials to "take action" after warning that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled administration officials about his contacts with Russian Federation.

Brennan noted anew that US intelligence agencies had concluded "Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the USA democratic process, denigrate Secretary (Hillary) Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency, and to help President Trump's election chances". Support for Trump appears to have dropped among Americans of all political stripes. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is surrounded by reporters as he leaves a briefing of the full Senate by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, amid controversy over President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, a.

Coats told senators at a Senate hearing that it would be inappropriate to discuss private conversations he'd had with the president.

The Senate panel on Tuesday made a decision to issue two additional subpoenas to Flynn's businesses and sent the letter to his lawyer asking about the legal basis for his invoking his Fifth Amendment right over documents as opposed to testimony.

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