today’s dose of smears

Pindo intelligence investigating Russian links of leading Trump associates – report
Guardian, Jan 20 2017

Donald Trump’s transition team has been forced to distance itself from reports that Pindo intelligence agencies have intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russia and associates of the president-elect. On the eve of Trump’s inauguration as the 45th POTUS, the business dealings of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort were among the matters under investigation, the NYT reported, citing current and former senior Pindo boxtops. Manafort, who stood down as Trump’s campaign chief in Aug 2016, has made millions from consulting work while working for pro-Russia oligarchs including Rinat Akhmetov, Dmitry Firtash and Oleg Deripaska. The NSA has conducted surveillance of Manafort’s business contacts, the NYT said, for suspected links to the FSB. Other Trump associates whose contacts are said to be under the microscope include Carter Page, an investment banker who worked in Russia and who was a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Roger Stone, whose involvement in Republican politics goes back to Richard Nixon. However, the Trump team denied any knowledge of the investigations, which have reportedly been led by the FBI and supported by the NSA, CIA and the Treasury’s Dept financial crimes unit, or why they might be under way. Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition said:

We have absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation.

Manafort called the allegations that he had interactions with the Russian government a “Democrat party dirty trick and completely false.” He said in an emailed statement:

I have never had any relationship with the Russian government or any Russian officials. I was never in contact with anyone, or directed anyone to be in contact with anyone. On the ‘Russian hacking of the DNC,’ my only knowledge of it is what I have read in the papers.

The reports follow weeks of intrigue over the possible involvement of Russia in trying to help Trump win last November’s election. A ‘secret’ CIA analysis ‘reportedly’ concluded that people with connections to the Russian government provided emails hacked from the DNC + Podesta to WikiLeaks in the run-up to the Nov 8 election. In December, Obama ordered Pindo intelligence to review evidence of Russian interference in the election, although the NYT reported that it was not clear whether the latest revelations were part of that review.

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