Brennan, Gowdy Spar Over Trump-Russian 'Conspiracy'

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House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) questions former CIA director John Brennan (left) during a hearing on “Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign” in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In testimony Tuesday morning before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, former CIA Director John Brennan revealed publicly for the first time that he was “concerned” about contacts between Russian officials and people involved in the Trump campaign.

“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 that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” Brennan said, answering pointed questions from South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy. “And it raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

Brennan continued, saying that he doesn’t know whether any collusion actually took place: “But I know that that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine if U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”  

The back-and-forth between the two men was tense at times, as Gowdy pressed Brennan on the issue.

“Did you see evidence of collusion, coordination, conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russian state actors?” Gowdy asked.

“I saw information and intelligence that was worthy of investigation by the bureau to determine whether such cooperation and collusion was taking place,” Brennan responded.

“That doesn’t help us a lot. What was the nature of the information?” Gowdy shot back, employing less of the respectful decorum than most of his colleagues used when addressing Brennan.

“It’s classified, and I’m happy to talk about it in the classified session,” Brennan said. 

“And that would have been directly between the candidate and Russian state actors?”

Twitter was quickly filled with opinions on whether Gowdy had accidentally elicited a response he didn’t want.

“Rep Gowdy stepped into it. He got an answer from Brennan he didn't want,” tweeted Twitter user @ritacolleen. 

“Big mistake by Gowdy—he allowed Brennan 2 draw a line under the fact that Trump associates had numerous contacts with Russia,” tweeted Twitter user @PeachyCheryl. 

But others thought Gowdy got the upper hand in the encounter.

“Brennan knows that Gowdy knows that Brennan is full of shit. That's why Brennan is shaking when Gowdy is questioning,” tweeted @politicccs. 

In his opening statement, Brennan described the brazenness of Russian interference in the 2016 election.