WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director John Brennan told Congress on Tuesday that Russia has a history of trying to “suborn individuals” and he worried last summer about the number of contacts Russian officials were having with Americans.
Brennan was testifying before the House intelligence committee about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
He says that last summer he was increasingly concerned that Russian officials were perhaps trying to enlist the cooperation of people in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Brennan says the contacts raised questions about whether Russia was trying to gain the cooperation of those individuals.
He says he doesn’t know if any collusion occurred between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Brennan says he warned Russia against meddling in the presidential election during a call to the head of the Russian intelligence service — the FSB — on Aug. 4.
Brennan told the committee he was the first U.S. official to call out the Russians for their activities, telling the head of the FSB that if Russia continued to interfere, it would backfire and prevent any warming of relations.
He says the Russian intelligence official denied that Russia was meddling, but said he would raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department said that Robert Mueller’s work at a law firm that represented relatives and associates of President Donald Trump does not disqualify him from overseeing an FBI investigation into possible ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
The former FBI director was appointed last week to serve as special counsel overseeing a counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.
Mueller left his position at the WilmerHale law firm, whose clients include former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
rmer Republican congressman and senator from Indiana, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.He was asked about a Washington Post that said Trump asked Coats and Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to push back against an FBI investigation that’s been examining potential coordination between Moscow and the presidential campaign.
Coats did not deny the report but said he didn’t want to characterize or comment on any private conversations with the president.
Brennan’s testimony before the House intelligence committee on Tuesday comes one day after Flynn invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination in response to a subpoena from the Senate intelligence committee.
Both the Senate and the House intelligence committees are investigating Flynn and other Trump campaign associates as part of probes into Russia’s election meddling. The FBI is also conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign.