Russia interfered in 2016 US elections: Former CIA director

Brennan had become so concerned about the possibility of a Russian intervention previous year that he had high level meetings with top officials to brief them about the nature and extent of Russia's interference.

Former CIA Director John Brennan has told Congress he was so concerned about Russian contacts with people involved in Donald Trump's campaign that he convened top counterintelligence officials to focus on them.

Brennan testified that there was a "sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation" by the FBI to determine whether or not USA citizens were "actively conspiring, colluding" with Russian officials.

He says that last summer he was increasingly concerned that Russian officials were perhaps trying to enlist the cooperation of people in the Trump campaign. The latest news most likely to hold the Capitol captive is word that Trump asked his own intelligence chiefs - Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers - to rebut Comey's then-public statement that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had opened a criminal probe into Russia's meddling in July of past year. We see contacts, interactions, between Russian officials and USA persons all the time. WikiLeaks released material hacked from email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials during last year's presidential campaign.

Brennan said it is not unprecedented to share intelligence with Russian Federation or other partners.

Trump has defended his disclosure, arguing he has the right to share such information with Russian Federation.

Coats also decried leaks relating to USA intelligence, telling the committee, "Lives are at stake in many instances and leaks jeopardize those lives". Trump used the CIA's Wall of Honor - a collection of engraved stars marking lives of Central Intelligence Agency operatives killed in the line of duty - to launch a rambling speech in which he bragged about his election victory.

He also said that before such sharing, the USA would go back to the intelligence partner that provided the information to make sure it would not compromise operatives.

Former CIA Director John Brennan is set to testify publicly about the intelligence underpinning the Obama administration's conclusion that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 election.

The information Trump shared with the Russians - about an ISIS plot to smuggle laptop bombs on airplanes - was reportedly collected by Israeli intelligence services. "I find [the leaks] appalling", he said.

He said he raised published news media reports of Russian attempts to meddle in the election with the Russian official, who denied any involvement by Moscow. But he said they initially may not have realized they were a target of Russian intelligence services. Russian Federation is trying to undermine US democracy right now.

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

Mr Brennan echoed a sentiment already expressed by Ms Clinton at a women's conference earlier this month when she explained that Mr Putin blamed her for civil unrest after the last Russian election.

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 was Central Intelligence Agency director from 2013 until Donald Trump took office in January. Trump associates Paul Manafort and Roger Stone have provided the committee with information, while former campaign adviser Carter Page has not. When Brennan refused to answer in an open session, Gowdy again pushed for a yes or no answer. The former Central Intelligence Agency director under President Barack Obama has confirmed that all talk of a proven "conspiracy" or "collusion" between the Russian government and Trump campaign is - at the moment - still only speculation.

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