Former CIA Director John Brennan appeared on Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee. The Committee, less Denin Nunes after he recused himself, questioned Brennan over his knowledge of Russian intelligence, their interest in Donald Trump, and whether or not collusion between Trump and Russia is a real thing.
Brennan indicated that Russia not only “brazenly interfered” in the election but acted to hurt Hillary Clinton because they blamed her for encouraging dissidents inside Russia, but they also wanted Trump because of his “outsider status” and success they had previously with businessmen taking government positions. At several points, Brennan testified that the CIA became aware of “interactions between US persons and the Russians.”
It was clear from Brennan’s testimony that the Trump campaign was in communication with the Russians and that communication involved more than one person. He also indicated that there was sufficient information that the CIA had forwarded information to the FBI and supported the investigation. Asked specifically about whether it there was evidence of collusion, Brennan left indications that such evidence may have already been collected. And once again, Republicans who were convinced that there is nothing to this scandal, got answers they didn’t want.
Gowdy: Did you see evidence of collusion, coordination, conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russian state actors?
Brennan: I saw information, intelligence that was worthy of investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not such cooperation or collusion was taking place.
Brennan indicated that some of the communication between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials might have been “benign,” but because the interactions occurred in a context of Russia attempting to skew the election, they drew extra scrutiny. Brennan also stated that Russian officials were actively attempting to cultivate US contacts.
Brennan: “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 individuals, and it raised questions in my mind about whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”
Brennan’s testimony appears to leave no opening for anyone who would want to dismiss the FBI investigation out of hand. However, Representative Trey Gowdy took over from Nunes as chair of the committee and—as might be expected—embarrassed himself in attempts to twist Brennan’s testimony and downplay the significance.
However, as happened earlier in testimony by Comey, most attempts to press Brennan into saying that there was no significance to activity the CIA had detected only caused the former director to indicate that the actions were serious.
Republicans were on their “anything but the topic” game as Representative Brad Wenstrup tried to make the hearing about comments by Barack Obama and Trey Gowdy tried to make it about Hillary Clinton. Gowdy in particular seized on a hint that the Russians “may” have collected information they didn’t reveal to repeatedly, and moronically, ask Brennan what other info about Clinton the Russians had … that they didn’t reveal.
But just as with the initial public hearing with James Comey, the result of the hearing with Brennan is to reinforce that significant information has already been collected, the FBI investigation is warranted, and that more than one person in the Trump campaign was involved in contact with Russian officials.