The United States congressional investigations into possible collusion between Donald Trump and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election now possess "concrete" evidence that there was indeed a conspiracy between the Trump team and Russian officials to use hacked emails and documents in a way that could alter the course of the race, a new report in The Guardian newspaper said on Thursday.
Quoting a source, the Guardian report filed by correspondents Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Nick Hopkins says that the evidence is "specific."
"They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion," the newspaper quoted its source as stating. "This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material."
The Guardian report follows a report by The New York Times last month, in which the Times revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies "began picking up conversations in which Russian officials were discussing contacts with Trump associates," at the same time that hacked documents from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee began appearing online via the Wikileaks site.
The Guardian report came on the same day as a separate report in a British magazine quoting former British spymaster Richard Dearlove claiming that Trump, even today, is still struggling to pay off loans from Russian banks that kept his family business afloat in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.
"What lingers for Trump may be what deals — on what terms — he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him," Dearlove, the 72-year-old retired head of Britain's Special Intelligence Service — a spy agency better known as "MI6" — told Prospect Magazine in an interview published on Thursday.
Earlier media reports as far back as the summer of last year revealed that Trump had borrowed massive sums from Russian lenders, and Trump collaborated on real estate projects with a Russian businessman, Felix Slater, with strong links to organized crime.
While Dearlove's position as leader of Britain's spy network allowed him inside knowledge of some of the world's most secret and often sinister clandestine operations, he nonetheless called the alleged contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia "unprecedented."
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Dearlove also dismissed Trump's allegations that President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump's headquarters in Trump Tower in New York, calling Trump's claims "deeply embarrassing" for the U.S. administration — especially Trump's claim that Obama had relied on the British electronic spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters or GCHQ — Britain's equivalent of the American National Security Agency.
"The only possible explanation is that Trump started tweeting without understanding how the NSA-GCHQ relationship actually works," Dearlove said.
On the other hand, according to the Guardian report, it was GCHQ that first discovered the links between Trump and his associates and Russia — all the way back in 2015.
"GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious 'interactions' between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said," according the Guardian article on Thursday. "This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information."
But it wasn't only the British electronic surveillance agency that picked up and passed on information about the Trump contacts with Russia. Information also poured in from electronic eavesdrops carried out by Australia, Canada, and New Zealand — as well as from the United States NSA itself, according to the report.
And that wasn't all. Dutch and French surveillance teams also spotted communications between the Trump team and Russia, passing that data along to the United States during the first six months of 2016, The Guardian reported.
The GCHQ, however, was the main "whistleblower" regarding the suspicious "interactions" between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian agents, the new report says.
[Featured Images by Chip Somodevilla, Pool/Getty Images]