The scandal surrounding the Trump campaign Russia-connection is getting more alarming every day. According to a new report published by the BBC this week, the CIA established a counterintelligence task force in 2016 to investigate possible Russian funding of President-elect Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The report states that the task force included the FBI, the Treasury and Justice Departments, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Security Agency (NSA).
The counterintelligence team was set up after the director of the CIA, John Brennan, received a recording of a conversation about the Kremlin funneling money directly into Trump’s campaign funds, the BBC’s Paul Wood wrote. The recording was reportedly passed to the CIA by the intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States.
On October 15, a judge in the FISA court granted a warrant requested by the task force to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks that may have been implicated in the money transfer, a senior intelligence official told the BBC.
To keep the operation secret, Trump was not named in the warrant, but three of his associates were subjects of the inquiry.
The BBC report comes amid claims, contained in a dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele, of Trump’s extensive ties to Russia.
Steele, who was the head of the British intelligence agency MI6’s Moscow desk and is known for his “knowledge of the intricate web” of Kremlin-tied companies and associates, wrote the dossier between July and December of 2016 as part of an opposition research project funded by anti-Trump Republicans.
A two-page summary of Steele’s memos was attached to the intelligence community’s classified report on Russia’s meddling in the US election, which was presented to President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden earlier this month. The nation’s top lawmakers on intelligence matters, known as the “gang of eight,” and president-elect Donald Trump were also briefed.
FBI Director James Comey discussed the dossier with Trump verbally after presenting the president-elect with the report on Russian meddling, intelligence sources told reporters last week.
The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, released a statement last Wednesday reiterating that, while the intelligence community had “not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, “part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
The dossier has apparently been circulating among journalists and top lawmakers since early last year. Sen. John McCain of Arizona obtained a copy that he handed over to the FBI before the election. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada obtained an early copy of the dossier as well.
The Trump’s associates under investigation were contacted, but not named, by the BBC. All three denied the allegations. The current status of the investigation is unclear.