Ex-CIA chief Brennan: Trump may have broken protocol

Brennan also told the House Intelligence Subcommittee that he had personally warned the head of Russia's intelligence service that any plans to meddle in the US presidential election "would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in relations between Washington and Moscow, but that it's pretty obvious they ignored him because Donald Trump is president.

"I believe I was the first USA official to brace Russia on this matter", Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee during a public appearance in that panel's probe into Russian interference in the election.

This appeared to be the first time an intelligence official has pointed to what instigated the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of Russian election meddling, which includes an examination of possible collusion between the Kremlin and members of the Trump campaign.

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.

Brennan also told Congress that he's "very concerned" about releases of classified information to the press. "I was anxious about the number of contacts that the Russians had with US persons".

Former CIA Director John Brennan says he had "unresolved questions" about whether members of the Trump campaign who had contact with Russians were working "on their behalf, either wittingly or unwittingly". Trump has denied any collusion.

He said that Americans don't always know when they're helping Russian spies because Russian intelligence agents often use intermediaries.

In congressional testimony, Brennan said that such meddling "would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in relations between the United States and Russian Federation.

And before such intelligence is shared, the country that provided it must be warned so as not to jeopardize sources or methods, Brennan said.

Though Brennan did not mention any names in particular, recent reports about two individuals in Trump's inner circle fit the pattern he described.

In late July of previous year there was so much concern that he convened a group of officials from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency to focus on it exclusively.

Beyond elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin will undoubtedly try to exploit political chaos and divisions in Washington, Brennan said. The New York Times later reported that Trump had pressed Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn.

Brennan also called the FBI's investigation "well founded".

Brennan said he believed he was the first US official to raise the matter of election interference with the Russians, citing an August 4, 2016 phone call he had with the head of Russia's FSB, Alexander Bortnikov.

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

The panel will get two cracks at Brennan - the first in public at 10 a.m. ET and the second behind closed doors - nearly two months after his first appearance was dramatically canceled amid the chaos sparked by House intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes' clandestine White House trip.

"So, it appears as though, at least from the press reports, that neither did it go in the proper channels, nor did the originating agency have the opportunity to clear language for it".

Brennan called the leaks damaging and appalling.

  • Zachary Reyes