Former CIA Chief Says Intelligence Warrants FBI’s Trump-Russia Investigation

WASHINGTON ? The former head of the CIA said he has seen intelligence about interactions between President Donald Trump?s campaign associates and Russian officials that made him believe there was a need for the ongoing FBI investigation into possible collusion.

?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,? former CIA chief John Brennan told lawmakers on Tuesday during a House Intelligence Committee hearing. By the time he left the CIA on Jan. 20, Brennan continued, he had ?unresolved questions? as to whether the Russians were successful in getting Americans ?to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion.?

Brennan told lawmakers he could not say with certainty whether the president?s campaign associates colluded with Moscow. ?But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the [FBI] to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring or colluding with Russian officials,? he testified Tuesday.

Brennan made the disclosure after multiple Republican lawmakers asked Brennan to provide ?evidence? that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to boost Trump?s chances of winning the 2016 presidential election. In carefully worded responses, Brennan said that, as CIA chief, he dealt with intelligence rather than evidence ? and the intelligence warranted further investigation.

The former CIA chief?s description of unusual interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials matches a series of press reports that have focused on former Trump advisers Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Brennan declined to publicly name the Trump associates who were in contact with Russian officials, citing classification reasons.

Before leaving the CIA, Brennan played a key role in a U.S. intelligence assessment that accused Moscow of meddling in last year?s presidential election with the goal of helping Trump win. There is no reference to collusion with the Trump campaign in the unclassified version of that assessment, which was released in January, days before Trump entered the White House. Brennan was one of several intelligence officials who briefed Trump on the findings, which were endorsed at the time by the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI. He has also briefed the so-called Gang of Eight, members of Congress who have access to highly sensitive material.

When he first learned of Russian efforts to sway the election last summer, Brennan said, he confronted Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, and warned him that such an effort would shatter chances for improved U.S.-Russia relations. ?I believe I was the first U.S. official to brace Russia on this matter,? Brennan told lawmakers, referring to an August 2016 conversation with Bortnikov. The FSB chief denied the allegations but said he would pass on the warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brennan recounted.

Brennan, who spent 25 years with the CIA, has emerged as a harsh critic of Trump. When Trump compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany in January before he took office, Brennan, who was still the head of the CIA, called the remarks ?repugnant.? On Trump?s second day in the White House, he visited CIA headquarters and boasted about the size of the crowds at his inauguration the previous day. Brennan said Trump ?should be ashamed of himself? for his ?display of self-aggrandizement? during that speech, according to Nick Shapiro, former CIA deputy chief of staff.

Tuesday?s hearing was part of an ongoing House Intelligence Committee probe into Russian election interference and possible collusion with Trump associates. The Senate and the FBI are running parallel investigations.

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Celebrities Honor Sir Roger Moore With Touching Tributes On Social Media

Sir Roger Moore, the longest-serving James Bond actor in the franchise, died on Tuesday after a battle with cancer.

His family shared the sad news with a statement on Twitter, writing, ?We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered his greatest achievement.? 

Upon hearing the news, touching notes from celebrities began pouring in on social media. 

?RIP Sir Roger Moore. My first Bond and one of the first actors that I loved as a kid. And a lovely, funny, warm person to boot. Farewell,? wrote director Edgar Wright, while actor Jim Howick called Moore his ?first hero.? 

Read more of the touching tributes below:

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Witnesses Describe Manchester Attack

Children, teenagers and adults tell of seeing bodies on the ground and of scrambling to escape the Manchester Arena when a bomb exploded after an Ariana Grande performance.


South Korea fires at North ‘object’

The object has not been identified but North Korea has flown drones over the border in the past.


Former Trump Advisor James Woolsey Slams Obama As Manchester Attack Unfolds

Former CIA director James Woolsey, who advised Donald Trump during his campaign and transition, used unfolding news of the deadly attack in Manchester, England, to slam the president?s predecessor, Barack Obama.

In comments that Media Matters posted online, Woolsey told Fox News anchor Shepard Smith:  

?Things are kind of coming to a head. I think the radical Islamists ? and I would call them that ? have decided to pick up the pace with the terrorist attacks, and I think we?ll probably see some more.

And we now have a president who is pretty straightforward that he is at war with them. He?s not going to soft-pedal that. He calls them evil. And we haven?t had a situation like that. We did not have in the eight years of the Obama administration a president who wanted to fight and win a war.? 

Smith cut him off. 

?President Obama fought a number of wars and certainly didn?t say that he didn?t want to win them,? he said. ?It?s very early, Mr. Woolsey, with great respect, it?s very early to make this a political matter.?

Woolsey continued. 

?He didn?t say that he didn?t want to win them, but I think that?s the way he behaved,? he said. ?Seems to me that?s pretty straightforward.?

Woolsey, who was CIA director under former President Bill Clinton, joined the Trump campaign in September and served on the transition team until a couple of weeks before the transition, when he resigned amid what The Washington Post called ?growing tensions over Trump?s vision for intelligence agencies.?


(H/T Mediaite)

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Terror Strikes At Ariana Grande Concert, Leaving 19 Dead

  • 19 people were killed and about 50 were injured in a blast at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.
  • The blast took place at the end of the singer?s set, sending concert goers into a panic.
  • U.K. police are treating the explosion as a terrorist incident.

Moments after Ariana Grande finished performing her 2016 hit single ?Dangerous Woman? Monday, a loud blast jarred thousands of British fans cheering the American pop star at the Manchester Arena.

Concertgoers, many of them Grande?s young fans and their friends, parents and grandparents, scrambled to evacuate the enormous concert hall, filling the arena with screams. Some were still clutching pink balloons that had dropped from the rafters during Grande?s encore.

At least 19 people were killed and about 50 were injured in the late-night explosion, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said early Tuesday. Police said the blast would be ?treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise.?

Two unnamed U.S. officials told Reuters a suicide bomber was suspected. Neither U.S. nor British authorities have confirmed the report, and no group has claimed responsibility.

The blast took place outside the famous concert hall, the largest indoor arena in Europe, near the box office, just after the show ended. Many parents were awaiting their children outside to take them home after the sold-out show.

Among those struck in the mayhem was Andy Holey, who was picking up his wife and daughter from the concert.

?As I was waiting, an explosion went off and it threw me about 30 feet from one set of doors to the other set of doors,? Holey told BBC. ?When I got up I saw bodies lying on the ground. My first thought was to go into the arena to try to find my family.?

Holey said he ?looked through some of the bodies to try and find my wife and daughter,? and eventually found them unharmed.

Elena Semino of Lancaster shared a similar story with The Guardian. Semino and her husband were waiting near the box office to pick up their 17-year-old daughter when the explosion occurred.

?My husband and I were standing against the wall, luckily, and all of a sudden there was this thing. I can?t even describe it,? Semino said. ?There was this heat on my neck, and when I looked up, there were bodies everywhere.?

Inside the arena, concertgoers scrambled to evacuate amid screaming.

Witness described a chaotic scene, with many people confused about what just had happened.

?There were just a loud bang and a flash and everyone tried to scramble out,? Jade Baynes, 18, told The Guardian. ?An alarm came on telling everyone to stay calm, but leave as quickly as possible.?

?You could feel it in your chest,? Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters. ?It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out.?

Moments earlier, fans were enjoying Grande?s performance, one of four stops on the U.K. leg of her ?Dangerous Woman? tour.

Grande was unharmed, her publicist told The New York Times. She later tweeted her condolences to her fans:

Grande got her start on Nickelodeon?s ?Victorious? and later starred on its spinoff ?Sam & Cat.? Her debut album, ?Yours Truly? was released in 2013 and featured early hits ?Baby I? and ?Right There.? Grande has since released two more records and cemented herself as one of the reigning pop divas of her time.

The 23-year-old is a four-time Kids? Choice Award-winner and because of her roots on Nickelodeon, her fan-base tends to skew on the younger side. Witnesses said the audience included many children.

Celebrities flooded Twitter on Thursday with condolences for the victims of the blast.

Britain?s leaders responded with solemn statements throughout the night.

British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her condolences for the victims of the ?appalling terrorist attack,? adding that authorities were still working to establish the full details of what happened.  

British labor leader Jeremy Corbyn expressed condolences.

As did Manchester?s mayor, Carl-Austin Behan.

London stands with Manchester, London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted.

Monday?s blast comes at a turbulent time for the U.K. Britain is on its second-highest alert level of ?severe,? meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

It?s been just two months since a 52-year-old British citizen ran down pedestrians with a vehicle on Westminster Bridge and stabbed a police officer to death before being killed by authorities. Five people, including the attacker and the officer were killed, and more than 40 were injured.

And at the start of next month, Brits are headed to the polls to vote in early elections. May is hoping to strengthen her coalition ahead of talks to exit the European Union. Politicians have agreed to suspend campaigning in the wake of the attack.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been briefed on the incident while traveling in Israel, a senior White House official said. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was monitoring the situation, but had ?no information to indicate a specific credible threat involving music venues in the United States.?

Chris D?Angelo, Stephanie Marcus and Reuters contributed reporting.

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Live Briefing: Explosion at Manchester Concert: What We Know and What We Don’t Know

Explosions at an Ariana Grande concert have left several people dead and dozens injured.



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Michael Flynn Lied During Security Clearance Interview, Top Dem Says

WASHINGTON ? President Donald Trump?s former national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to have lied to Pentagon officials about payments he received from Russians when he was interviewed in 2016 for a renewal of his security clearance, according to a document obtained by the top Democrat on the House oversight committee.

In a letter released Monday evening by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the congressman details a document that reveals Flynn told investigators he was paid by ?U.S. companies? when he traveled to Russia and dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

?[T]he Oversight Committee has in our possession documents that appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal,? Cummings wrote in the letter sent to committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). ?Specifically, the Committee has obtained a Report of Investigation dated March 14, 2016, showing that General Flynn told security clearance investigators that he was paid by ?U.S. companies? when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015 to dine at a gala with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The actual source of the funds for General Flynn?s trip was not a U.S. company, but the Russian media propaganda arm, RT.?

Cummings urged Chaffetz to subpoena the White House for documents it has related to Flynn. 

Cummings? letter comes just hours after Flynn officially announced he would not comply with a subpoena issued by senators investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

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