WASHINGTON – Former CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday he was concerned about the number of contacts between Americans "involved" with the Trump campaign and the Russians last year.
During his first public remarks since he left his post in January, Brennan told lawmakers he was so concerned about Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and recruit Americans that he convened a group of officials from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency in late July to focus exclusively on the issue.
Republicans on the House intelligence committee pushed Brennan about whether there was evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, a point President Donald Trump has tried to enlist allies to quash. Brennan said the CIA focuses on intelligence, not "evidence," and said he was not able to answer that question.
Brennan's statements about the number of contacts between associates of the Trump campaign and the Russians again put details about the Trump campaign's contacts with the Kremlin into the spotlight as reports emerged that Trump had asked his national intelligence director and NSA chief to state publicly there was no evidence of collusion before investigations into the matter were complete.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a Senate panel Tuesday he would not comment on the reports.
Brennan's testimony came the day after Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination in response to a subpoena from the Senate intelligence committee, which, like the House intelligence committee, is conducting an investigation into the Russian meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. The Senate intelligence committee asked Flynn and three other Trump campaign associates for documents, including lists of meetings he had with the Russians during the campaign.
The FBI is also conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign.
The former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, previously told Congress that the Justice Department was concerned that Flynn was compromised by the Russians and could be vulnerable to blackmail as Trump's national security adviser because of misleading statements he made to the vice president about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Trump in February fired Flynn over the misleading statements, but he has since defended Flynn and his integrity.
On Monday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House oversight committee, cited inconsistencies in Flynn's disclosures to U.S. investigators during his security clearance review in early 2016.
Cummings said in a new letter that Flynn appeared to lie about the source of a $33,000 payment from Russia's state-sponsored television network, failed to identify foreign officials with whom he met — including Russia's President Vladimir Putin — and glossed over his firing as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration. Cummings asked the committee's chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to subpoena the White House for documents related to Flynn.
Flynn's attorney, Robert Kelner, declined to comment on the new assertions by Cummings.
Associated Press writers Chad Day and Stephen Braun contributed to this report.