A number of Republican committee members were deeply skeptical. What the officials said was classified, so they cannot discuss it publicly, but, in conversations later, GOP lawmakers made it clear that the intelligence officials did not have the evidence to support the assertion.

“How should reporting take place?” one member said later. “You would say, ‘We believe X is true based on A, B, C, and D.’ When that doesn’t happen, it’s very suspect.”

“If you’re going to make an accusation like that, you darn well better be ready to answer questions and have evidence to support it,” said another member. When pressed, the member added that officials gave “very vague and unsatisfying answers.”