Published: Sun, May 28, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Russians 'discussed how to influence Trump via his aides'


Russian spies and politicians believed they could influence Donald Trump through his advisers at the height of last year's presidential campaign, according to evidence uncovered by U.S. intelligence officials.

It clarifies reports earlier this month that the FBI are investigating previously undisclosed information that allegedly confirms contact between the President's campaign team and Moscow.

Flynn has expressed a willingness to testify in exchange for immunity, but Schiff said there was little chance the House committee would agree to that. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government to disrupt the election.

In addition to the December meetings, a former senior intelligence official said Federal Bureau of Investigation agents had been looking closely at earlier exchanges between Trump associates and the Russians dating back to the spring of 2016, including one at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

Glassner did not immediately respond to a request for comment and a White House representative had no immediate comment, the Post said.

Trump's young administration has been dogged by concerns about its ties to Russia and questions over whether Trump associates may have cooperated with Russians as they sought to meddle in last year's election on Trump's behalf.

US intelligence officials obtained the data as they began to investigate Moscow's meddling in the presidential election, the sources told the Times.

The controversy has engulfed Trump's young administration since he fired FBI Director James Comey two weeks ago amid the agency's investigation of possible Russian Federation ties.

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page said he'll testify in a closed-door meeting before the House Intelligence Committee.

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Citing three current and former US officials familiar with the intelligence, the newspaper said the conversations focused on Paul Manafort, then the Trump presidential campaign chairman, and Michael Flynn, a retired general who was then advising Trump.

Trump said he fired Comey following "clear" advice from Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who, among other reasons, cited Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails as the reason he should be dismissed.

The report also said, however, that it is not clear whether Russian officials had directly tried to influence Manafort or Flynn.

In a letter to the Senate committee on Monday, Mr Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination in deflecting the panel's subpoena for a wide array of documents and information related to his contacts with Russians.

Burr said if there is no response from Flynn his committee may consider a contempt-of-Congress charge.

The FBI has collected data on computer bots, programs that perform repetitive functions like searches, allegedly linked to Russian Federation that helped target and push negative information on Hillary Clinton and positive information on Donald Trump through Facebook and other social media, the officials say.

Mr Flynn was appointed U.S. national security adviser in January but resigned after misleading vice-president Mike Pence over his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

"I told Mr. Bortnikov that if Russian Federation had such a campaign underway, it would be certain to backfire", Brennan said.

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