Yet another leak hit President Donald Trump’s administration Tuesday night about controversial communications with the Russian government prior to the election. The news comes on the heels of the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn over similar accusations.
The New York Times dropped the bombshell report citing four current and former American officials who said that other members of Trump’s campaign had multiple interactions with senior Russian intelligence officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that 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 who spoke to the Times under condition of anonymity admitted that no evidence of cooperation from the Trump campaign had been discovered.
The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the D.N.C. hack, according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.
The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol tweeted that the paragraph above meant that the FBI was looking into “possible criminal behavior.”
The revelations will surely give more ammunition to members of Congress who are calling for investigations into the Mike Flynn affair, including those who are speculating that Trump himself ordered Flynn to communicate his intentions to the Russians.
Speaking about the report, CNN’s Pamela Brown added, “[B]oth the frequency of these communications and the proximity to Mr. Trump during the campaign of those involved raised a red flag with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement according to these officials. And the communications were intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting Russian officials and other Russian nationals known to U.S. intelligence.” She added:
And among them were several senior Trump advisors that apparently according to our sources, were regularly communicating with Russian nationals. And so that was really what caught the attention of U.S law enforcement and U.S. intelligence officials. And officials we’ve been speaking with emphasize that these communications between campaign staff and representatives of foreign governments are not unusual. However, these particular communications stood out to investigators due to the frequency, the volume, and the level of the Trump advisors involved.
“And as we have been told by our sources,” Brown continued, “investigators have not reached a judgement on the intent of those conversations. Adding to U.S. investigators’ concerns though, were intercepted communications between Russian officials before and after the election discussing their belief that they had special access to Mr. Trump according to law enforcement and intelligence officials we’ve been speaking with.”
When asked if this development implicated the president directly, Brown explained that it was purely speculative at this stage:
One concern, Don, was whether Trump associates were coordinating with Russian intelligence operatives and the release of the damaging information about the Hillary Clinton campaign as you’ll recall, those emails from the DNC. That is really of concern and that is what intelligence officials and law enforcement officials have been focused on. As one official said, if that were the case then that would escalate things. So far the findings have been inconclusive.
Flynn said in a statement that he resigned after a misunderstanding that led to Vice President Mike Pence publicly denying that Flynn had spoken to a Russian officials about sanctions. Later Flynn said that he couldn’t remember if he had discussed them or not, putting Trump in an awkward position and embarrassing the vice president. The Free Beacon reported Monday that it was former Obama officials and loyalists that orchestrated the leaks that eventually took down Flynn.