Trump Aides In Contact With Russian Intelligence Before Elections

Phone records allegedly show that members of Trump’s campaign team were in contact with Kremlin intelligence officials before the U.S. elections.

The discovery was made during an FBI investigation over claims that Russia-inspired cyber-attacks targeted the Democratic National Committee and presidential aspirant, Hillary Clinton. The allegations had revolved around Russia executing a “campaign of influence” and posting “fake news” to damage Clinton’s candidacy.

The sources that spoke to the New York Times revealed that nothing incriminating was found to link the Trump team to Russian hackers. However, the sources said the intelligence community was concerned over the communication that had gone back and forth between the Trump camp and Russia.

Sources have revealed that some of the people been investigated include Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page. Manafort was President Trump’s former campaign manager who resigned after revelations came to the fore that he worked as a consultant in Ukraine and Russia. Stone, a colorful political operative left Trump’s campaign team, but continued to advise the 70-year-old billionaire businessman in the build-up to the elections. Page also left the campaign team after queries of his taut relations with Russia emerged. The three men have denied any wrongdoing.

In countries like Ukraine and Russia, spies are entrenched in everyday society making it possible for people to deal with them unwittingly. Manafort has denied knowingly dealing with Kremlin officials. However, he insinuated there was the possibility he might have crossed paths with them.

“I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never worked with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today. It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.”‘

According to the Independent, the investigation team is going all out to discover the extent to which both parties communicated. Officials refused to confirm if what they have gathered so far was related to politics or business. They have also not disclosed the identity of the Russian intelligence officials involved or how many of Trump’s current or former aides were talking to the Russians. They did not also confirm if the discussions had anything to do with the president or if he was aware it was going on. The team is presently scrutinizing travel documents, bank records, and conducting interviews.

This latest development comes just a day after Michael Flynn resigned as the national security adviser. The former Army Lieutenant General was forced to resign after he denied that he talked to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. last year. But the 58-year-old had been wire-tapped by intelligence officials over discussions about lifting U.S. sanctions. He had held the conversation before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn had misled Vice President Pence telling him that he only talked about trivial issues with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Pence had in a CBS News interview denied that Flynn talked about lifting sanctions against Russia.

President Donald Trump was told in late January that Flynn did not tell the Vice President the whole truth about his conversations with the Russian diplomat, according to an administration spokesperson. However, the president did not force the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency out of his administration.

This report that Trump associates made multiple contacts with Russia comes on the heels of consistent denials that nothing like that has ever happened. In early November, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov admitted that he was in touch with members of Trump’s team including his closest allies as well as individuals in high-ranking positions.

“We are doing this and have been doing this during the election campaign…we know most of the people from his entourage. 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.”

On Tuesday, White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied allegations that any associate of the president had been in touch with the Russian government.

[Featured Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]

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