Just a day after disgraced Trump’s national Security Advisor Mike Flynn resigned over reports that he colluded with Russian operatives before the election, the New York Times reports that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials around the same time Vladimir Putin directed a cyber attack on the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win.
According to the report, 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.
U.S intelligence has not released the content of the conversation, but the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public, according to the New York Times.
The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the Russian 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.
U.S. intelligence officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Russia and Ukraine. The officials declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls.
According to the report, the FBI is also trying to assess the credibility of information contained in a dossier that was given to the bureau last year by a former British intelligence operative.
The Bureau has spent several months investigating the leads in the dossier, but has yet to confirm any of its most explosive allegations.
Senior FBI officials believe that the former British intelligence officer who compiled the dossier, Christopher Steele, has a credible track record, and he briefed F.B.I. investigators last year about how he obtained the information. One American law enforcement official said that F.B.I. agents had made contact with some of Mr. Steele’s sources.
The FBI investigation is proceeding at the same time that separate investigations into Russian interference in the election are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday, top Republican lawmakers said that Mr. Flynn should be one focus of the investigation, and that he should be called to testify before Congress.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said that the news surrounding Mr. Flynn in recent days underscored “how many questions still remain unanswered to the American people more than three months after Election Day, including who was aware of what, and when.”
H/T: The New York Times.