Former CIA Director John Brennan spoke before the House Intelligence Committee today, sharing information and his own assessments mostly concerned with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Notably, Brennan revealed he had directly confronted the head of the FSB, Russia’s rough equivalent to an internal intelligence and law enforcement agency like the FBI, and said “I warned Mr. Bortnikov that if Russia pursued this course, it would destroy any near-term prospect for improved relations between Washington and Moscow and would undermine constructive engagement even on matters of mutual interest.”
But beyond confirming what has already been made public for some time, that the Russians were indeed responsible for a number of actions taken against the United States, ranging from misinformation to cyber espionage, and it was designed to disrupt our election, Brennan did not expound further on what many were hoping would form the basis of his testimony, the allegations of collusion between members of the Trump administration and the Russians.
“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such officials,” Brennan said. “I don’t know if such collusion — your words — existed. I don’t know. But I know there was sufficient intelligence … to warrant investigation by the (FBI).”
Brennan speculated that given his knowledge of Russian capabilities and intentions, it was not outside the realm of possibility that the Russians may have been targeting individuals to serve as agents on their behalf, “either wittingly or unwittingly,” and that as he closed out his time as CIA Director in January 2017, he had “unresolved questions” over the effectiveness of just such an effort.
He also offered his thoughts on why the Russians chose to specifically target Clinton’s campaign, citing a “traditional animus” between Putin and Clinton. But he also acknowledged that the Russian’s believed Clinton would be the eventual winner.
Brennan was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017. Starting as an analyst, he spent 25 years with the agency.
Image courtesy of Business Insider