Speaking before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, former CIA director John Brennan said that Donald Trump may have “violated two protocols” when he shared highly classified information with two Russian officials in May, and added that he was “concerned” about whether Russia “was able to gain cooperation” with individuals in the Trump campaign.
Politico notes that Brennan’s testimony is the “the most direct acknowledgment yet by a current or former US official” that Russia courted the Trump campaign in order to to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
“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. It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” Brennan said.
“I don’t know that such collusion—and that’s your term—such collusion existed,” he continued. “But I do know that there was a sufficient basis of intelligence and information that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not US persons were actively conspiring, colluding, with Russian officials.”
He also highlighted a series of concerns regarding the reports that Trump shared highly classified information about ISIS, sourced by Israeli intelligence. “If the reports in the press are true, that Mr. Trump decided to spontaneously share some intelligence with the Russians, I think he would have basically violated two protocols,” Brennan said.
Classified intelligence should be shared through intelligence agencies, not public officials, Brennan explained, and must be reviewed by the originating agency to make sure nothing sensitive. “Neither did it go in the proper channels, nor did the originating agency have the opportunity to clear the information.”
Brennan added that the leak of classified information to the press was “appalling” and the sources “need to be tracked down.” Russians are trying to “actively exploit” the confusion in Washington DC right now, he said.