Former CIA Director John Brennan told top legislators in classified briefings last summer the agency had evidence Russia might be trying to help Donald Trump win the presidency, months before public disclosures were made after the Republican candidate's victory, according to former government officials.
Brennan was so concerned about the mounting data on Russia, the former officials told The New York Times in its Thursday report, in August he began holding individual briefings for the "Gang of Eight" members of Congress, sometimes on "secure phone lines while they were on their summer break.
"It is unclear what new intelligence might have prompted the classified briefings," the Times reported, however, officials said the CIA had noticed information from the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other party operatives had been leaked, while data from a similar breach of the Republican National Committee had been not.
RNC officials had denied their operations were hacked.
In an Aug. 25 briefing for Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Minority Leader at the time, Brennan "indicated that Russia's hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election," two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.
In addition, Brennan "also indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election," the Times reported.
Those claims are being investigated by the FBI as well as the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Trump has slammed any suggestion of Russian ties to his campaign or election, though he has asserted former President Barack Obama had ordered his Trump Tower telephones wiretapped during the election.
Both the CIA and the FBI declined to comment, the Times reported, as did "Brennan and senior lawmakers who were part of the summer briefings."
Brennan stepped down from the CIA on Jan. 20, the day Trump was inaugurated.
The FBI had begun its own Russian investigation in July, according to the report.
Brennan's classified briefings with the Gang of Eight, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate and of the intelligence committees in each chamber, occurred in August and September.
In December, a month after Trump was elected, news reports disclosed the CIA had concluded Moscow had meddled in favor of the Republican.
Just before Trump's inauguration, intelligence officials released a declassified report saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had "aspired to help" Trump in his face-off against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Intelligence officials had disclosed the information both to Trump and outgoing President Barack Obama just before it was declassified.
Last month, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged the Russian hacking probe at a House committee hearing on Moscow's role in the election.
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