Intel committee chairman: Report on Russia meddling conflicts with DNI testimony

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The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says a reported CIA assessment that Russian government actors interfered in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win conflicts with the mid-November public testimony from the nation’s intelligence chief, according to a new letter obtained by Fox News.

In a letter Monday to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said, "On November 17, 2016 you told the Committee during an open hearing that the IC (Intelligence Community) lacked strong evidence connecting Russian government Cyber-attacks and Wikileaks disclosures."

In response to a question from ranking Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, Clapper had said, “As far as the WikiLeaks connection, the evidence there is not as strong and we don't have good insight into the sequencing of the releases or when the data may have been provided. We don't have as good insight into that.”

The Nunes letter continued, “According to new press reports, this is no longer the CIA’s position…I was dismayed that we did not learn earlier, from you directly about the reported conflicting assessments and the CIA’s reported revision of information previously conveyed to this Committee.”

Nunes is requesting a briefing from the CIA and FBI on the current assessment of alleged Russian involvement related to the U.S. election no later than Dec. 16.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA concluded in a secret assessment that Russia interfered in the race to boost Trump, not just undermine confidence in the system. Intelligence agencies reportedly found individuals connected to the Russian government gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, as well as from Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta – though the agencies did not have “specific intelligence” showing Kremlin officials directed the activity.

Trump has challenged the report, calling the assessment “ridiculous.”

Some Republican senators, though, have sought a bipartisan congressional probe to investigate further. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., endorsed those calls Monday morning, saying: “The Russians are not our friends.”

In a statement earlier Monday, Nunes said his committee will “closely oversee the production  of the report on these attacks requested by President Obama to ensure its analytical integrity” – but he does “not see any benefit in opening further investigations, which would duplicate current committee oversight efforts and Intelligence Community inquiries.”

The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Schiff, D-Calif., criticized Trump and his allies for calling the intelligence community’s work into question.

“Every day the President-elect and his team continue to denigrate the work of the intelligence community, to the detriment of the agencies' important work and the success of his own presidency,” he said in a statement.

A spokesman for Clapper told Fox News that the DNI would respond directly to the committee.