Former CIA chief John Brennan left no wiggle room in one aspect of his testimony before a House panel on Tuesday: "It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 election process," he told the House Intelligence Committee, per the Daily Beast. But as for the dicier question of whether Russia worked with anyone in the Trump campaign: "I don't know whether such collusion existed," he said, per the New York Times. However, Brennan said he was sure that Russia was at least trying to influence members of the campaign, and thus "I felt as though the FBI investigation was certainly well founded," he said, per Politico. Other key quotes and moments:
- Suspicious contacts: "I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals," Brennan said. "It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals."
- Where's the evidence? Republicans Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney pressed him for evidence of collusion, but he said that wasn't the CIA's role, reports the Hill. "I don't do evidence, I do intelligence," he said. "We were uncovering intelligence about contacts between US persons and the Russians," and "as we came upon that, we would share it with the bureau."
- Warning to Russia: In a sign of how worried he was, Brennan said he personally called the head of Russia's intelligence service and warned him that meddling would cause serious harm to US-Russia relations. It's the first time such a high-level warning has been revealed, reports the Washington Post. His counterpart denied any meddling.
- 'Unresolved': Brennan stepped down as CIA chief on Jan. 20, and by then, "I had unresolved questions in my mind about whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting US persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion."
- From the right: So still no evidence of collusion, writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. "Maybe the special counsel probe will find evidence for such, but don’t forget that Brennan ran the CIA during the entire election cycle and still can’t connect those dots."
- From the left: "Brennan’s comments about the 'well founded' basis of the Russia investigation blow up Trump’s talking point—one he pushed as recently as May 18 on Twitter—that the probe is just a 'witch hunt' promoted by Democrats upset about Hillary Clinton’s defeat," writes Aaron Rupar at ThinkProgress.
(Read more John Brennan