Ex-CIA Director Says Trump Campaign's Contact With Russia Prompted Investigation

This story is developing. Check back for updates.WASHINGTON -- In an appearance before the House Intelligence committee, former CIA director John Brennan said he doesn't know of potential collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.But he saw enough interaction between the two groups to warrant an investigation, he told lawmakers in an open hearing on Tuesday.“I saw information and intelligence that was worthy of investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not such cooperation ... was taking place,” he said when asked directly by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., whether he saw evidence of “collusion” or “coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.Brennan, who left the bureau in January, said those interactions “raised questions” in his mind about whether “those individuals were cooperating with the Russians in a witting or unwitting fashion.” He declined to name the people who have allegedly have contact with the Russians, telling lawmakers they have access to that information in a classified setting.Communication between Russian actors and Americans is common, he stressed to lawmakers. But given what intelligence officials knew last summer of the Kremlin’s attempt to meddle in the presidential election -- acts that included hacking into Democratic political campaigns and releasing damaging emails -- “seeing these types of contact and interactions during the same period of time raised my concern.”Those unanswered questions are at the heart of multiple ongoing probes in Congress and the FBI.In a public hearing overseen by Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, Brennan said he was the first to warn Russians about meddling in the American democratic process -- a charge they denied in those talks, he said. Still, he doesn't believe Russia will let up on its plans to meddle with U.S. policy and politics. Putin’s camp is “watching very carefully what is going on in Washington right now” and will attempt to capitalize on the existing partisan discord, he said.“Even though the election is over, I think Mr. Putin and Russian intelligence services are trying to actively exploit what is going on in Washington to their benefit,” Brennan said.The ex-CIA chief has previously asserted that the Russians’ purpose was to boost Trump’s candidacy -- not merely sow chaos and confusion among the American electorate.On Tuesday, he reiterated his belief that the Russians actively tried to harm Hillary Clinton’s election bid due to a history of bad blood between Putin and the Clintons, in addition to her “rigid” stance on issues including human rights. He also said he believes Russians would have continued to try to "denigrate" Clinton had she won the election.And he discussed the potential ramifications of Trump’s disclosure of classified information to Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting in recent weeks, saying that if the reports are true, Trump would have violated protocol in how to release information to foreign counterparts.He also slammed intelligence leaks as harmful. “These continue to be very, very damaging leaks and I find them appalling and they need to be tracked down,” he said.Brennan is expected to meet with House intelligence lawmakers in a closed session following the open hearing.  Continue reading...

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