Fox News’ morning show, Fox & Friends, tried to downplay and spin former CIA Director John Brennan's May 23 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, where Brennan expressed concerns about communications between President Trump's associates and Russian officials. MSNBC’s Morning Joe and CNN’s New Day however provided context, criticizing Republicans at the hearing for trying to downplay or deflect Brennan's concerns and noting that a CIA director is not expected to present concrete evidence of a charge like Russian collusion. Despite those facts, Fox simply claimed that Brennan told “lawmakers there's no hard evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia.” From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
JILLIAN MELE: President Trump hiring a lawyer to represent him in the federal investigation into his campaign's alleged ties to Russia. This, despite former CIA Director John Brennan telling lawmakers there's no hard evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Did evidence exist of collusion, coordination, conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian state actors at the time you learned of 2016 efforts?
JOHN BRENNAN: I don't know whether or not such “collusion,” that's your term, such collusion existed.
MELE: Brennan also denying claims of White House interference in the investigation, saying he's unaware of any pushback from the president.
From the May 24 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe.
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Secondly, OK, here's the deal. Now Trey Gowdy should know this, right? Weren't they talking about, like, Trump was talking about naming him like intel God or something like that? He's in line to be like -- whatever. The CIA, they collect intel. All right, that's their job. They get intel and they figure out -- they get the information, usually to presidents who aren't insulting them, and they work together. The FBI, Trey, they gather evidence. So please do not ask an FBI director when he or she is before your committee about what's happening in Pakistan, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. And don't ask a CIA director about, quote, “evidence.” Not his job and you know that. Bush league, stop. Willie, I mean, just why, why are Republicans making fools of themselves like this? And I will say that Trey Gowdy knows better. There’s always a distraction.
From the May 24 edition of CNN's New Day:
CHRIS CUOMO: To those who do not want to believe there’s any collusion, they say ‘John Brennan just said it, there is no proof, they’ve been investigating this forever, there’s leaks all over the place. This is a hoax, the president is right.’ Your response?
PHILIP MUDD: Chris, let's watch this over the next day or two because Sean Spicer and the White House have consistently misportrayed what intelligence officials are saying. Let me give you a clear distinction between intelligence and investigations. The intel guys are going to get the intelligence. That is, for example, intercepts of Russian communications, showing, at most, one half of the story, and more than likely significantly less than one half. They do not have visibility that is intel guys like the DNI, the director of national intelligence, and the CIA director, into the significant part of the investigation that's conducted by the FBI. Interviews of American citizens. Looks into their travel, into their financial records. So of course the intel guys are going to say, “I saw some smoke when Russian people talked about their interactions with the Americans.” But there's no way you can look at one half of the conversation and draw aconclusion about collusion.
ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): Did collusion exist? That's the burning question that everybody wants answered. And then Brennan says, “Well, I know of contacts and communication.”
MUDD: Well [Rep.] Trey Gowdy [(R-SC)] ought to have his ass kicked. He knows the difference between intelligence and evidence. Let me tell you something, Alisyn. If you're an American citizen, and the National Security Agency collects intelligence that is intercepts of Russians who report what you said, do you think it's fair to go to a court and say that's evidence of something that you did wrong? That's why the FBI's going to take a year or more to investigate this because the American citizens involved in this have a right to have evidence presented in a court beyond a conversation that a Russian official reports. In my world, this distinction is black and white. It is a hard line. I know it's frustrating for the American people, but I hope they don't want evidence to be perceived as something that a Russian official says, and that's it, you can be convicted on that.