Former CIA director says 'Russia brazenly interfered' in election

The committee is one of four tasked with investigating alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Brennan said he told his Russian counterpart, the head of Russia's FSB, last August that if Russia pursued its efforts to interfere, "it would destroy any near-term prospect for improvement in relations" between the two countries. Secondly, the language shared with the Russians should have been cleared by the agency that first provided the intelligence. He said he might have been the first USA officials to contact Russian Federation on the topic.

Former CIA Director John Brennan told House Russia investigators Tuesday that Russia "brazenly interfered" in USA elections, including actively contacting members of the President Donald Trump's campaign - but he stopped shy of dubbing it "collusion". "It raised questions in my mind about whether Russian Federation was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals".

Investigators also have questions about contacts between the Russians and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"But I know that there was a basis to have individuals pull those threads", former CIA Director John Brennan said.

But before the White House celebrates, Brennan was also clear that he is not in a position to definitively rule out collusion. By the summer of 2016, Brennan said, he was "convinced" that Russian Federation was engaged in an "aggressive" and "multifaceted" effort to interfere in our election - and as a result, he believed "there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation" by the FBI.

Coats sidestepped the question but did not deny that Trump made the request. Those "efforts to suborn", he elaborated, begin with Russians targeting and then cultivating people of influence or who are "rising stars", to "try to get them to do things on their behalf". We see contacts, interactions, between Russian officials and USA persons all the time.

This sort of "humor" is why most Americans don't trust Congressional Republicans to investigate the Russian Federation scandal.

This allowed Brennan to say that he saw evidence that "in my mind raised questions of whether it was collusion" and that he'd seen enough to encourage the Federal Bureau of Investigation to keep "pulling threads" on that particular issue.

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich said Trump's sharing would be considered the "mother of all leaks" if he held any position in government besides president, which gives him the authority to declassify whatever he wants.

Mr Putin and Russian intelligence services "are doing what they can to influence and an underhanded, illegal way" the operations of western democracies, said Mr Brennan.

He said he raised published media reports of Russian attempts to meddle in the election with the Russian official, who denied any involvement by Moscow.

Former CIA chief John Brennan had a moving response when asked Tuesday why Russia's meddling in the 2016 election should matter to the American people.

Coats told senators at a separate hearing that it would be inappropriate to discuss private conversations with the president.

There was a "traditional animus" between Clinton and Putin, he said, in part because the Russian leader suspected the former secretary of state of backing anti-Kremlin protests and because the Russians thought Clinton would be more "rigid" on some issues like human rights than Trump. Brennan pointed to the ease with which Russian Federation was able to hack Democratic operatives' emails, which were then published on WikiLeaks.

He said Russian Federation used WikiLeaks as a "cut-out", or go-between, and that protests by WikiLeaks that it is not working with Russian Federation and Russia's claims it is not working with WikiLeaks are "disingenuous".

Brennan became so alarmed by the Russian intervention last fall that he held classified meetings with top congressional officials to impress upon them the unprecedented nature of Moscow's interference.

Separately, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was asked on Tuesday about a report that Trump had asked Coats and Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, to help him knock down the notion that there was evidence of such collusion.