John Brennan, a former director of the CIA, said while testifying to the House Intelligence Committee on May 23 that he still has "unresolved questions" regarding whether or not Russia worked with President Donald Trump's campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
"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 testified in front of the HIC, according to USA Today. "It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals."
The committee is one of four tasked with investigating alleged Russian influence in the presidential election.
Brennan told the Congress members that "there was sufficient intelligence … to warrant investigation" by the FBI, even though he's not sure whether or not "collusion" took place. He said he "saw interaction" that in his mind "raised questions of whether it was collusion," so he decided "it was necessary to pull threads," according to CNN.
At that point, he spoke with the head of Russia's FSB intelligence agency and warned against continuing further, warning that "American voters would be outraged" by any meddling and that it would "destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in relations between the two countries, he recounted, notes USA Today.
The Russian intelligence officer denied any involvement, Brennan said.
"The Russians are watching very carefully what is going on in Washington right now, and they will try to use if for their purposes," added the former CIA head. "Mr. Putin and Russian officials are trying to actively exploit what is going on now in Washington to their benefit and to our detriment."
Brennan cited the instance in which Trump reportedly shared classified information with Russian officials as an example of this.
"What I was very concerned about ... is the subsequent releases of what appears to be classified information purporting to point to the originator of the information, liaison partners," he added of the media reports that Trump allegedly shared classified intelligence he received from Israel. "They continue to be very, very damaging leaks and I find them appalling and they need to be tracked down."
Brennan also said he believes that Russian intelligence officials "will try to exploit elections" and present a "serious" threat. Many American officials don't always know when they are assisting the Russians, as they frequently use intermediaries, Brennan said.