CIA Director Under Obama Expressed Concerns Over Lawmakers’ Grasp of Russian Election Interference: Report

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Then-CIA Director John Brennan wrote to employees that he believed not all members of Congress understood the significance of the agency’s determination that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, according to an internal CIA memo published Thursday by BuzzFeed.

Former Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill, May 23, 2017. (Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

“In recent days, I have had several conversations with members of Congress, providing an update on the status of the review as well as the considerations that need to be taken into account as we proceed,” the Dec. 16 Brennan memo published by BuzzFeed reads. “Many — but unfortunately not all — members understand and appreciate the importance and gravity of the issue, and they are very supportive of the process that is underway.”

In another Brennan memo dated Dec. 13, he addresses “a variety of reports and commentary about purported CIA intelligence and assessments on foreign activities related” to the election.

In that memo, he cautioned his staff that “there will likely be additional uniformed public discourse and speculation on this matter that will surface in the media in the days and weeks ahead.”

“I understand how frustrating such reports can be, but this is one of the many challenges we face in our line of work,” the memo published by BuzzFeed reads.

BuzzFeed obtained the memos through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency, a CIA spokesman told CNN.

CNN has submitted a FOIA request for the documents, which were verified to CNN by the CIA.

Brennan wiil not comment on the story, his spokesperson told CNN.

Investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election have been front and center during President Donald Trump’s seven months in office, including several congressional probes into possible ties between his campaign and the Russian government.

Just before the Dec. 13 memo, CNN reported there was a disparity in conclusions between intelligence agencies and the FBI, which had caused disagreement between some Republicans and Democrats on Russia’s intentions.

On Oct. 7, a month out from the election, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of Nation Intelligence on Election Security released a joint statement that said the intelligence community was “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” and added “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”

Trump has wavered on his agreement of the intelligence community’s assessment — as recently as July, Trump refused to definitively say whether he believed Russia had interfered in the election.

“Well I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people and other countries,” Trump said at a news conference in Poland. “It could have been a lot of people interfered.”

However, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper pushed back against Trump’s comments: “As far as others doing this, boy, that’s news to me,” Clapper said in an interview that week with CNN’s Jim Sciutto. “We saw no evidence whatsoever that it was anyone involved in this other than the Russians.”