Former intel chief speaks publicly about concern over possible Russia meddling in US presidential campaign
John O. Brennan – “I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,”
Former CIA head Brennan said publicly for the first time Tuesday that he was concerned about possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign
Confirms he saw ‘contacts and interactions’ between Russians, Trump officials
President Trump asked two top intelligence officials to deny the existence of evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia, former heads of CIA and said
Dan Coats, director of NIA, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the chief of the NSA asked to declare publicly that there was no evidence of collusion between Trump campaign and Russian officials
President made appeal late March, 2017, hoping to undercut F.B.I. probe into meddling by Russia in 2016 U.S. presidential election
Both of the intel officials testifying before lawmakers, Tuesday
Former C.I.A. director, John Brennan, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee
Former CIA Director John Brennan stated publicly on Tuesday while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, that he left office in January with many unanswered questions about the Russian influence operation. Intelligence officials have said that Russia tried to tip the election toward Mr. Trump.
“I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,” Brennan responded when asked if he’d seen evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.
John O. Brennan said Tuesday that he became concerned last year that the Russian government was trying to influence members of the Trump campaign to act, wittingly or unwittingly, on Moscow’s behalf.
“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,” Mr. Brennan told members of the Committee: “It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” he said, adding that he did not know whether the Russian efforts were successful.
“I don’t know whether such collusion existed,” he added.
John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee
Brennan was concerned enough that he held urgent, classified briefings for eight senior members of Congress, speaking with some of them over secure phone lines while they were away on recess, he said.
He told lawmakers there was evidence that Russia was specifically working to elect Mr. Trump as president.
He and a selection of officials also briefed both President Barack Obama and Mr. Trump in January on a broad intelligence community report revealing that Russian president Vladimir Putin, personally ordered an “influence campaign” targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Regarding the prospects of Russia again interfering in the 2018 midterm elections, forner director Brennan said: “I have, unfortunately, a grudging respect for Russian intelligence capabilities, their aggressiveness, their pervasiveness and their determination to do what they can do undermine this country’s democracy and democratic institutions.”
Russia will continue to try to “exploit elections,” and looking at other targets, he said.
Russian intelligence is aggressively trying to collect intelligence about prominent Americans both inside and outside the government, Brennan said. They would use whatever information they obtained to gain leverage over individuals who help shape American opinion.
Adm. Michael S. Rogers, Director NSA
Over at the US Senate, members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee heard that President Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back on the Russia investigation, according to two American intelligence officials.
Answering questions before the lawmakers on the hill on Tuesday morning the officials said Mr. Trump asked them to make public statements debunking the existence of any evidence of collusion between members of his election campaign team and Russian officials.
The aim they said, was to undercut an F.B.I. investigation into possible meddling by Russia in the 2016 U.S presidential election, the former intel chiefs told lawmakers.
The requests were made in late March to Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the chief of the National Security Agency.
Both men said they rebuffed the request, which they saw as an inappropriate effort to inject politics into an intelligence and law enforcement matter, the former officials said.
NIA director Dan Coats, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee
The latest indication of a possible attempt at obstruction of justice comes days after the former director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, publicly acknowledged for the first time that the bureau was running a broad counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential campaign and any possible collusion between associates of Mr. Trump and Russian officials.
The Comey revelation was rebutted by Mr. Trump, who has publicly stated, repeatedly, there was no collusion, and he wanted Director Coats and Adm. Rogers to publicly back him.
Mr. Trump’s requests to Mr. Coats and Adm. Rogers were first reported by The Washington Post. A source revealed that on the day of Mr. Comey’s hearing, a call from the White House switchboard came in to Mr. Coats’s office with a request to speak to the director – calls from the switchboard are usually from the highest officials at the White House, the president, the vice president or the national security adviser. Mr. Coats it was reported, took the call.
Dan Coats, the director of NIA, testified before Senate Armed Services Committee, Tuesday
“Is that an accurate reporting, Director Coats?” Mr. McCain asked.
Mr. Coats said he could not publicly discuss the subject.
“As the president’s principal intelligence adviser, I’m fortunate to spend a significant amount of time with the president discussing national security interests and intelligence as it relates to those interests,” Mr. Coats said. “We discuss a number of topics.”
But, because of the sensitivity of their conversations, Mr. Coats said, “It’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that.”
Mr. McCain asked whether reports based on unnamed sources are problematic.
“Lives are at stakes in many instances, and leaks jeopardize those lives,” Mr. Coats said.