Diplomat says Russia and Trump’s team kept in contact
MOSCOW — Russian government officials had contacts with members of Donald Trump’s campaign team, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday, in a disclosure that could reopen scrutiny over the Kremlin’s role in the president-elect’s bitter race against Hillary Clinton.
Facing questions about his ties to Moscow because of statements interpreted as lauding Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump repeatedly denied having any contact with the Russian government.
In response, the spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, Hope Hicks, denied there were interactions between Russia and the Trump team before Tuesday’s election.
“The campaign had no contact with Russian officials,” she said in an email.
But Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview with the state-run Interfax news agency, said that “there were contacts” with the Trump team.
“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Ryabkov said. “Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions. I cannot say that all of them, but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”
“Wehave just begun to consider ways of building dialogue with the future Donald Trump administration and channels we The Trump campaign denies any contact with Vladimir Putin’s government. will be using for those purposes,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
There were no further details given on the claimed contacts, including names in the Trump campaign or other specifics.
Asked for clarification about the meetings, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova countered: “Are you paranoid?”
“It seems to me that you’re not far from having your own 1937,” she wrote in an electronic message, in a reference to the height of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s purges. “They’ll be putting people in prison as Russian spies.”
In earlier comments to Bloomberg News, Zakharova said that Russian Embassy staff met with members of Trump’s campaign, which she described as “normal practice.” Democratic Party contender Hillary Clinton’s campaign refused similar requests for meetings, she told the agency.