US Intel Chief: Collusion unclear but Russia, Trump contact alarming

The FBI investigation is now being overseen by a special counsel, Robert Mueller III, after Mr. Trump's firing of James Comey as FBI director raised questions about whether the president was trying to quash the probe into whether his associates had contacts with Russians.

While President Donald Trump is overseas, his presence looms large back in Washington, D.C.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer). U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz waves after addressing the Utah GOP Convention Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Sandy, Utah.

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 and could shed light on concerns about the security risk posed by President Donald Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Still, he stopped short of accusing the Trump campaign of collusion.

Both the Senate and the House intelligence committees are investigating Flynn and other Trump campaign associates as part of probes into Russia's election meddling. Tuesday's letter narrowed the scope of the documents the panel is seeking. Flynn had rejected the earlier subpoena for records as being so broad that providing them could make him vulnerable.

Brennan said it wasn't clear at the time if the Trump aides were acting as Russian agents or if the "contacts and interactions" were routine and unconnected to a larger effort by Russian intelligence agencies to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

Despite the ongoing probe and reports this week that Trump urged intelligence officials to publicly deny the FBI was investigating him, the president remains focused on his trip and his domestic agenda, according to a senior White House official.

"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 United States persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf", he said.

Brennan said that he can not say definitively there was actual collusion.

KELLY: This phone exchange is significant because it demonstrates how alarmed officials inside the Obama administration were last summer two months before US intelligence put out a formal statement about Russian interference and five months before USA intelligence weighed in with the view that Russia had tried to tip the vote to Trump.

A statement from the White House said the hearing and Brennan's testimony "back up what we've been saying all along: that despite a year of investigation, there is still no evidence of any Russia-Trump campaign collusion, that the President never jeopardized intelligence sources or sharing, and that even Obama's CIA Director believes the leaks of classified information are "appalling" and the culprits must be 'tracked down'".

Coats told senators at a Senate hearing that it would be inappropriate to discuss private conversations he'd had with the president.

Dan Coats is testifying Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Monday, in response to the Senate committee's earlier requests, Flynn invoked his constitutional right not to incriminate himself in regard to details about interactions between himself and the Russians.

Brennan called the appearance "despicable" and said that Trump should be "ashamed".

Mr Cummings asked the committee's chairman, Jason Chaffetz, to subpoena the White House for documents related to Mr Flynn.

Burr said the committee could recommend Flynn be charged with contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with the original subpoena.

"Everything is on the table", Burr said. He also discussed his concerns about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

Mr. Brennan said he was concerned because of "known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals".

Brennan said he told FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov that "American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election" and that such activity "would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in relations with the United States.

Mr. Brennan, the former CIA chief, said in his testimony that the intelligence community determined by last August that there was a "very aggressive" effort by Russian Federation to intervene in the 2016 election.

He also says that before sharing such classified intelligence with foreign partners, the US would go back to the intelligence partner that provided the information to make sure what was shared would not compromise operatives.

Brennan said that while he was Central Intelligence Agency director he shared classified information with Russian Federation and other nations about threats related to terrorism.

"What I was very concerned about.is the subsequent releases of what appears to be classified information purporting to point to the originator of the information, liaison partners", he added of the media reports that Trump allegedly shared classified intelligence he received from Israel. This type of information is typically shared in intelligence channels and not between the US president and foreign diplomats, Brennan said.

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