Thu, Feb 16, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Donald Trump aides linked to Russian spies

NOT IDENTIFIED:Campaign chairman Paul Manafort said that he had never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence agents, before adding: ‘It is not like they wear ID badges’

NY Times News Service, WASHINGTON

Paul Manafort, then-campaign adviser for US President Donald Trump, talks with supporters and staff after a speech by Trump on the eve of his Indiana primary victory in New York on May 3 last year.

Photo: EPA

Telephone records and intercepted calls show that members of US President Donald Trump’s 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 at about the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking the US 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 said that, so far, they had seen 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 Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At one point last summer, Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mails and would make them public.

The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials and they included other associates of Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the government outside of the intelligence services, 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 telephone 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 telephone calls.

The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the FBI is sifting through as it investigates the links between Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, according to federal law enforcement officials.

As part of its inquiry, the FBI has obtained banking and travel records, and has conducted interviews, the officials said.

Manafort, who has not been charged with any crimes, dismissed the accounts in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“This is absurd,” Manafort said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers and I have never been involved 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,’” Manafort added.

Several of Trump’s associates, such as Manafort, have done business in Russia and it is not unusual for US businesspeople to come in contact with foreign intelligence officials, sometimes unwittingly, in nations such as Russia and Ukraine, where the spy services are deeply embedded in society.

Law enforcement officials did not say to what extent the contacts might have been about business.

Officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the telephone calls, the identity of the Russian intelligence officials who participated on the calls and how many of Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians. It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Trump himself.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top