By Agence France-Presse
Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday he became increasingly concerned last summer over contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign officials and Moscow, as a Russian effort to interfere with the US presidential election became evident.
Brennan’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee gave a much clearer view of how seriously US intelligence took the Russian threat, and why the FBI began investigating it in July, well before the American public was aware of the allegations.
“I encountered and became aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan said.
“I know what the Russians try to do,” he told the committee. “They try to suborn individuals and they try to get individuals, including US persons, to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.”
“Frequently, individuals on a treasonous path do not even realize they’re on that path until it gets to be too late,” he added.
Brennan said he delivered a stiff telephone warning to his Russian counterpart, the head of the FSB spy agency, against meddling in early August, two months before US intelligence chiefs went public with their belief that Russia was trying to manipulate the election in Trump’s favor.
“I said American voters would be outraged by any attempt to interfere in the election,” Brennan said of the August 4 call.
“I warned him that if Russia pursued this course, it would destroy any near-term prospect for improvement of relations and would undermine constructive engagement even on matters of mutual interest.”
Brennan did not cite the names of the Trump aides that US intelligence agencies had eyed for their Russia contacts. He also said that, when he stepped down from the CIA as Trump took office, he still did not know if there had been collusion.
“By the time I left office on January 20, I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting US persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, “It should be clear to everyone that Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election process.”
“And that they undertook the activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning they not do so.”
Brennan’s came as investigations by the Justice Department and several Congressional committees into Russian interference increasingly focus on several people tied to the president. A number of former Trump aides have been summoned to testify by Congress and a grand jury.
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