World

Ex-CIA chief: It's clear Russia interfered with US election

WASHINGTON: Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director John Brennan said on Tuesday that he became increasingly concerned last summer over contacts between US President Donald Trump's campaign officials and Moscow, as a Russian effort to interfere with the US presidential election became evident.

Mr Brennan's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee gave a much clearer view of how seriously US intelligence took the Russian threat, and why the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating it in July last year, well before the country was aware of the allegations.

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"I know what the Russians try to do," he told the committee.

"They try to suborn individuals and they try to get individuals, including US persons, to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.

"Frequently, individuals on a treasonous path do not even realise they're on that path until it gets to be too late."

Mr Brennan said he delivered a telephone warning to his Russian counterpart, the head of the FSB spy agency, against meddling in August last year, two months before US intelligence chiefs went public with their belief that Russia was trying to manipulate the election in Mr Trump's favour.

"I said American voters would be outraged by any attempt to interfere in the election," Mr Brennan said of the call.

"I warned him that if Russia pursued this course, it would destroy any near-term prospect for improvement of relations and would undermine constructive engagement even on matters of mutual interest."

Mr Brennan did not cite the names of the Trump aides that US intelligence agencies had eyed for their Russia contacts.

He also said when he stepped down from the CIA as Mr Trump took office, he did not know if there had been collusion.

Nevertheless, he said: "It should be clear to everyone that Russia interfered in our presidential election process.

"And that they undertook the activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning they not do so."

After Mr Brennan spoke, the White House again denied any links to Moscow.

"This morning's hearings back up what we've been saying all along: That despite a year of investigation, there is still no evidence of any Russia-Trump campaign collusion," a spokesman said. - AFP

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