Rep. Trey Gowdy grills former CIA director John Brennan at a House Intelligence Committee meeting Tuesday morning on Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Gowdy repeatedly presses Brennan for some kind of hard evidence, or even the admission that such evidence exists, that President Trump or his campaign were inolved with the Russian attempt to influence the election.
Brennan repeatedly dodged, saying: "As I said Mr. Gowdy, I don't do evidence."
"I appreciate that you don't do evidence, Director Brennan. Unfortunately, that's what I do," Gowdy fired back. "That's the word we use, you use the word assessment, you use the word tradecraft. I use the word evidence. And the good news for me is lots of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle use the word evidence, too. One of my colleagues said there is more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign."
Eventually Brennan replied: "I don't know whether or not such collusion -- and that's your term, such collusion existed. I don't know. But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials."
More segments of Gowdy grilling Brennan below.
GOWDY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Director, thank you for your service to our country. Let's go back to where we were a couple minutes ago, you mentioned or you testify that you had a conversation in August of 2016 with your Russian counterpart, you testified that you briefed at least eight members of Congress throughout (inaudible) of your investigation.
When you learned of Russian efforts -- and we'll get to that in a minute because my understanding from your unclassified report is, Russia has historically attempted to interfere with our electoral process. And they did so without coordination, collusion or conspiring with any of the candidates, so they have a history of doing it. We'll lay that aside for a minute, 2016 electoral process. When you learned of Russian efforts, did you have evidence of a connection between the Trump campaign and Russian state actors?
BRENNAN: As I said Mr. Gowdy, I don't do evidence...
GOWDY: Well, I...
BRENNAN: ... and we were uncovering information intelligence about interactions and contacts between U.S. persons and the Russians. And as we came upon that, we would share it with the bureau.
GOWDY: I appreciate that you don't do evidence, Director Brennan. Unfortunately, that's what I do. That's the word we use, you use the word assessment, you use the word tradecraft. I use the word evidence. And the good news for me is lots of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle use the word evidence, too. One of my colleagues said there is more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.
Now, there are only two types of evidence; there's circumstantial and direct. So if it's more than circumstantial, by necessity, it has to be direct. Those aren't my words; those are the words of one of my colleagues on the other side of this very committee. Another Democrat colleague on the other side of this committee also used the word evidence, that he has seen evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and yet a third California Democrat, said she had seen no evidence of collusion.
So that's three different members of Congress from the same state, using the same word, which is evidence. And that's the word that my fellow citizens understand, evidence. Assessment is -- is your vernacular. Tradecraft is your vernacular. You and I both know worth the word evidence makes. And we're not getting into whether or not you corroborated, contradicted, examined, cross-examined. We're not getting into how you tested and probed the reliability of that evidence; it's a really simple question.
Did evidence exist of collusion, coordination, conspiracy, between the Trump campaign and Russian state actors at the time you learned of 2016 efforts?
BRENNAN: 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 and it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.
I don't know whether or not such collusion -- and that's your term, such collusion existed. I don't know. But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.
GOWDY: Do you know the basis of that information that you shared with the bureau? What was -- the nature of the evidence?
BRENNAN: I think, Mr. Gowdy, this committee has now been provided information that relates to that issue in terms of information that the agency shared with the bureau and that is something that is appropriately classified.
GOWDY: All right, and you learned that when? When in this chronology did you learn of the contacts between these official members of the Trump campaign or -- because there's kind of a tripartite hierarchy. There's Trump himself, there are official members of the campaign, and then there are folks who represented themselves as being connected with him.
BRENNAN: I'm not going to try to identify individuals nor try to parse it.
GOWDY: I don't want you to parse it, I just want you to identify the individuals. I don't want you to parse it.
BRENNAN: I'm not going to identify the individuals because this is information that, again, is based on classified sources and intelligence. And I think this committee has access to it...
GOWDY: Were they official members of the campaign?
BRENNAN: I'm going to defer to current agency officials to be able to further provide to you information related to that. But my understanding is that this committee has access to the documents that we would have provided to the bureau.
GOWDY: All right. Last question because I'm out of time, we can use the word onus, we both know what the other one's talking about. How did you test, probe, examine, cross-examine, otherwise test the reliability or believability, credibility, of that evidence you uncovered?
BRENNAN: I made sure that the components within CIA that have responsible for counterintelligence, cyber, and Russia, were actively working to understand as much as possible about the reliability, accuracy of the information that they already collected and information that was available that needed further corroboration.
GOWDY: We'll come back to it next round.
All of Gowdy's questions: