Trump Campaign Had Contacts With Russian Intelligence: Report
US agencies intercepted calls between Russian spies and Trump’s campaign team, says NYT
Washington: Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former US officials.
US law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weekssaidthat,sofar,theyhadseen no evidence of such cooperation. But the intercepts alarmed US intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials and included other associates of Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the government outside of the intelligence ser- vices, the officials said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.
The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Ukraine. The officials declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls.
The call logs and interceptedcommunications are part of a larger trove of information that the FBI is sifting through as it investigates the links between Trump’s a s s o c i at e s a nd t he Russian government, as well as the hacking of the DNC, according to federal law enforcement offi- cials. As part of its inquiry, the FBI has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said. Manafort, who has not been charged with any crimes, dismissed the accounts of the US officials in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “This is absurd,” he said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been i nvolv e d wit h a nyt hi ng to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”