old manafort stuff recycled plus rumours as per golden showers dossier

Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence
Michael Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, Matt Apuzzo, NYT, Feb 14 2017

FASCHINGSTEIN — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Pres Trump’s 2016 campaign team and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intel boxtops in the year before the election, according to four current and former Pindo boxtops. FBI and NSA intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the DNC, three of the boxtops said. They then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. They said that so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation. But the intercepts alarmed them in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Trump was speaking glowingly about Pres Putin. At one point last summer, Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public. They said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign staff, and included other Trump associates. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the government outside of the intelligence services, they said. They said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Ukraine. The boxtops declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls. The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the FBI is sifting through as it investigates the links between Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the DNC, according to FBI boxtops. As part of its inquiry, the FBI has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, they said. Manafort, who has not been charged with any crimes, dismissed the officials’ accounts in a telephone interview on Tuesday, saying:

This is absurd. I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today. It’s not like these people wear badges that say ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’

Several of Trump’s associates have done business in Russia, like Manafort. And it is not unusual for Pindo businessmen to come in contact with foreign intel boxtops, sometimes unwittingly, in countries like Russia and Ukraine, where the spy services are deeply embedded in society. The sources did not say to what extent the contacts might have been about business. They would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, the identity of the Russian intelligence officials who participated, and how many of Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians. It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Trump himself. An ‘assessment from the intelligence community’ that was made public in January concluded that the Russian government had intervened in the election in part to help Trump, but did not address whether any members of the Trump campaign had participated in the effort. The NSA-intercepted calls are different from the FBI-wiretapped conversations last year between Michael Flynn and Sergei Kislyak. In those calls, which led to Flynn’s resignation on Monday night, the two men discussed sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December. But the cases are part of routine FBI and NSA electronic surveillance of the communications of foreign boxtops. Earlier Tuesday, Sean Spicer stood by Trump’s previous comments that nobody from his campaign had contact with Russian boxtops before the election. Spicer said in response to a question:

There’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.

Two days after the election in November, deputy Russian foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax:

Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage. There were contacts.

The Trump transition team denied Ryabkov’s statement. Spox Hope Hicks said at the time:

This is not accurate.

The NSA, which monitors the communications of foreign intelligence services, initially captured the calls between Trump’s associates and the Russians as part of routine foreign surveillance. After that, the FBI asked the NSA to collect as much information as possible about the Russian operatives on the phone calls, and to search through troves of previous intercepted communications that had not been analyzed. The FBI has closely examined at least four at least three (footnote) other people close to Trump, although it is unclear if their calls were intercepted. They are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; Roger Stone, a long-time Republican operative; and Michael Flynn. All of the men have strongly denied that they had any improper contacts with Russian boxtops.

As part of the inquiry, the FBI is also trying to assess the credibility of the information contained in a dossier that was given to the bureau last year by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele. The dossier contained a raft of allegations of a broad conspiracy between Trump, his associates and the Russian government. It also included unsubstantiated claims that the Russians had embarrassing videos that could be used to blackmail Trump. The FBI has spent several months investigating the leads in the dossier, but has yet to confirm any of its most explosive claims. Steele briefed investigators last year about how he obtained the information. One FBI boxtop said that FBI agents had made contact with some of Steele’s sources. The FBI’s investigation of Manafort began last spring as an outgrowth of a criminal investigation into his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and for the country’s former Pres Yanukovych. It has focused on why he was in such close contact with Russian and Ukrainian intel boxtops. The FBI did not have enough evidence to obtain a warrant for a wiretap of Manafort’s communications, but it had the NSA scrutinize the communications of Ukrainian boxtops he had met. The FBI investigation is proceeding at the same time that separate investigations into Russian interference in the election are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. Those investigations, by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, are examining not only the Russian hacking but also any contacts that Trump’s team had with Russian officials during the campaign. On Tuesday, top GOP critturs said that 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 Demagog on the Intelligence Committee, said:

The news about Flynn underscores how many questions still remain unanswered to the Pindo sheeple more than three months after Election Day, including who was aware of what, and when. Gen Flynn’s resignation won’t stop us from continuing to investigate him or any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.

Correction: Feb 14 2017 – An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people (in addition to Paul Manafort) whom the FBI has examined. It is at least three, not at least four.

Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting.

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