- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
US spies were able to capture discussions revealing that senior Russian intelligence and government officials sought to sway Donald Trump’s opinion of Russia by way of his advisers, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing several current and former American intelligence officials.
The intelligence collected last summer was considered by the authorities to be legitimate enough to be shared with the FBI, which is continuing its investigation into the possibility of collusion between Trump’s associates and Russian officials to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.
The conversations between the Russian officials centered on Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn, then a campaign adviser. The conversations reportedly involved their bragging about how well they knew Flynn – Trump’s eventual national security adviser – and also included plans to take advantage of their connection to Viktor Yanukovych, the former pro-Kremlin president of Ukraine, whose government hired Manafort as a political consultant.
The Times reports that the intelligence of those conversations helped spur the Trump-Russia investigation. Despite this new information, The Times said it remained unclear whether the Russian officials actually followed through and tried to influence Manafort and Flynn.
Both of the former Trump advisers have denied colluding with the Russian government to sway the election. Trump has also vigorously rejected the assertions.
- Thomson Reuters
Earlier this week, former CIA Director John Brennan delivered his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee saying he was concerned by the Trump campaign’s “interactions” during the election.
“It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process,” Brennan said on Tuesday, “and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they do not do so.”
After being asked by Republican Rep. Tom Rooney whether he had found “any direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin in Moscow” during his tenure, Brennan said “there was intelligence that the Russian intelligence services were actively involved in this effort … to try to get individuals to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.”
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.