Ex-CIA chief: 'Russia brazenly interfered in our elections'

Cheryl Sanders
May 24, 2017

Lawyers for Flynn, a former three-star Army general, said Monday that he would not comply with a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena seeking records of his and the campaign dealings with Russian Federation, citing the "escalating public frenzy against him" and the special counsel investigation.

Brennan's testimony came in the wake of President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey two weeks ago as Comey was in the midst of investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Trump has predicted the investigations won't find collusion, and his efforts to cast doubt and curb the probes have led to the appointment of a special counsel at the Justice Department. He testified there was evidence during his tenure that members of Trump's campaign were in contact with Russian officials, a fact he warned congressional leaders of both parties about at the time.

He confirmed that all relevant information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency was shared with former FBI Director James Comey.

It was also a reminder that every claim from Team Trump about there being no contacts between Trump's operation and Russian officials was demonstrably wrong - raising questions anew about whether the president was ignorant or lying.

He said that Americans don't always know when they're helping Russian spies because Russian intelligence agents often use intermediaries. "It was necessary to pull threads".

Brennan noted that he had shared classified intelligence with the Russians while he was the CIA director between 2013-2017.

During that meeting with Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia's Federal Securities Bureau (FSB), Brennan said he warned that if Russian Federation had such a campaign of interference underway, which had already been reported in the press, it would be "certain to backfire". But he said they initially may not have realized they were a target of Russian intelligence services.

The former Central Intelligence Agency director said he addressed the matter with Russian Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov, who told him he would pass on his concerns to President Vladimir Putin. "Mr. Putin and Russian officials are trying to actively exploit what is going on now in Washington to their benefit and to our detriment". Russian officials, either entirely disguised or hiding their connections to Kremlin intelligence operations, work to build relationships with "rising stars" or "influential" people in US politics. He said he was "very concerned" about the disclosure of information.

Brennan said protocol requires that any sharing of classified information with foreign governments be done through intelligence channels, not from the president to visiting officials.

"I don't feel it's appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president", he told committee Chairman John McCain.

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

Brennan says he warned Russian Federation against meddling in the 2016 election in an August 4 call to the Russian Federation intelligence chief during the hearing.

"I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherished their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference", Brennan said. He said he told Bortnikov that Russian interference "would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in the relationship between the USA and Russia.

Israel's ambassador said in a public statement that Israel still has confidence in its intelligence partnership with the USA, but Israeli officials said privately that Trump's disclosures to the Russians were "our worst fears confirmed".

Brennan's testimony was the first public confirmation of the worry at high levels of the USA government previous year over suspicious contacts between Trump campaign associates and Moscow.

Afterward the hearing, Brennan will answer additional questions during a closed session.

In his opening statement, Brennan also recounted how he had briefed congressional leaders in August of a year ago, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the "full details" of what he knew of Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

The CIA received intelligence last summer indicating Donald Trump's campaign aides were in contact with Russian government officials, information that was worrisome enough to pass to the FBI for investigation, former CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday. Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation after the House Committee on Ethics said it was investigating whether he disclosed classified information to the White House. He had been spearheading the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russian Federation.

"So, 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".

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