Former CIA head to answer questions about Russian meddling

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster center arrives for a news conference with President Donald Trump and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the East Room of the White House Thursday

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster center arrives for a news conference with President Donald Trump and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the East Room of the White House Thursday

Brennan said that while the bulk of the call focused on Syria, he raised two additional issues with him - continued harrassment of usa diplomats in Russian Federation and reports about efforts to interfere in the us election.

He said that on August 4, 2016, he spoke to Alexander Bortnikov, who is the head of Russia's FSB.

"I told Mr. Bortnikov that if Russian Federation had such a campaign under way, it was certain to backfire", Brennan said.

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

Brennan was speaking to the House intelligence committee on the extent of Russia's meddling in the 2016 elections and possible ties to the Trump campaign, where he was asked about how Moscow recruits sources "wittingly and unwittingly".

But Brennan said he left office in January before having enough evidence to determine "whether such collusion existed". He said the CIA is in the business of gathering intelligence, not evidence.

"Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late", he said.

Brennan said he anxious that Russians tried to recruit Americans during the presidential campaign to work for Moscow.

Brennan said that the targets of those Russian approaches may not have been aware of the nature of the contacts because Russian services often disguise their efforts by using intermediaries.

Brennan emphasized that Russia's primary goal was to weaken Clinton's candidacy.

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But importantly, Coats said he would be willing to talk about his conversations if asked by both Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators.

Brennan was the Director of the CIA a year ago when U.S intelligence agencies had prior knowledge of Russia's goal for interfering in the campaign which was to sabotage Hillary Clinton and emerge Trump as victor.

As Daily Beast editor Justin Miller pointed out, Brennan's testimony represents the first time a USA official has publicly said they have direct knowledge of communications between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation. He said there appear to be "very, very damaging leaks, and I find them appalling and they need to be tracked down".

His remarks came during a hearing of the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, including potential coordination with the president's campaign.

Reps. Trey Gowdy of SC and Tom Rooney of Florida were the most aggressive Republican questioners, and they solicited some of Brennan's most detailed responses.

"The cyber-environment now really provides so much more opportunity for troublemaking and the Russians take advantage of it", he said.

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". He said he hopes Brennan provides insight about what he knew as Central Intelligence Agency director. Prior to that, Brennan was a top counterterrorism and homeland security adviser to President Barack Obama.

Brennan's comments on what evidence existed to begin an investigation were nearly pried out of him during questioning by Republican committee members who to this point have appeared dubious of the notion that Trump's campaign team had colluded with Russian Federation.

It's rare for a single quote to tell you something genuinely new and important about a story as big as the Trump-Russia scandal.

It's important to note that Brennan wasn't literally accusing anyone in the Trump campaign - let alone the president himself - of committing treason, which has so high a bar that nearly no one in the history of the U.S. has been tried and convicted of it.

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