CIA Director John Brennan testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "diverse mission requirements in support of our National Security", in Washington, DC, June 16, 2016.
Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Former CIA confirms ‘interactions’ between Russia, Trump campaign

For months, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and their political operation insisted that no one from Trump World was in communications with Russia while Russia was attacking our election in support of Trump. The evidence to the contrary from news accounts has been overwhelming, to the point that the White House doesn’t even bother to repeat the talking point anymore.

It was nevertheless helpful to have the former director of the CIA testify under oath today about the “interactions” between Team Trump and its Russian benefactors.
[F]ormer CIA Director John Brennan appeared before the House Intelligence Committee and said he believes Russia “brazenly” interfered in last year’s presidential election and that he knew of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials.

“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,” Brennan told lawmakers.

He added that he is not sure whether “collusion existed” between the campaign and Moscow, but the interactions were enough that he believed the matter warranted an FBI investigation.
So much for the president’s “witch hunt” argument.

Brennan, who led the CIA for four years, including throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, also testified that Moscow “clearly had a more favorable view” toward the Trump campaign.

And though the former CIA chief didn’t identify individuals from Trump’s operation by name, Brennan was willing to say in his testimony, “I know there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding, with Russian officials.”

As a rule, the president and his allies seize on circumspect answers from intelligence agency officials – folks who tend to avoid provocative public answers on any subject – to falsely claim the “collusion” allegation has already been discredited. Brennan’s remarks to Congress today were a reminder that the allegation is alive and well.

It was also a reminder that every claim from Team Trump about there being no contacts between Trump’s operation and Russian officials was demonstrably wrong – raising questions anew about whether the president was ignorant or lying.

Making matters just a little worse, Brennan answered questions about Trump apparently leaking classified secrets to Russia for unknown reasons, which the former CIA director said likely violated two U.S. intelligence protocols.

Finally, Brennan took a moment to note that during his career, he’s seen examples of Russia getting Americans, even CIA officials, “to become treasonous. And frequently, individuals who go along a treasonous path do not even realize they’re along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.”

File that quote away for future reference.