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According to several current and former American intelligence officials, US spies were able to capture discussions that revealed senior Russian intelligence and government officials sought to sway Donald Trump’s opinion of Russia by way of his advisers, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The intelligence collected last summer was considered by the authorities to be legitimate enough to be shared with the FBI, which is continuing its investigation into the allegations of collusion between Trump’s associates and Russian officials in order to sway the 2016 US presidential election.
The conversations between the Russian officials centered around former campaign chair Paul Manafort and then-adviser Mike Flynn. It comprised of them bragging about how much they knew Flynn — Trump’s eventual national security adviser — and also included plans to take advantage of their connection to Viktor Yanukovych, the former pro-Kremlin president of Ukraine, whose government hired Manafort as a political consultant.
The Times reports that the intelligence was the breadcrumbs leading up to evidence of discussions between Trump’s surrogates and Russian officials, which spurred the Trump-Russia investigation. Despite this new information, The Times said it still remains unclear whether the Russian officials had attempted to follow through on their implication and influenced Manafort and Flynn.
Both of the former Trump advisers have denied colluding with the Russian government to sway the election. Trump has also vigorously rejected the assertions.
Earlier this week, former CIA Director John Brennan delivered his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee saying that he was concerned by the Trump campaign’s “interactions” during the election.
“It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process,” Brennan said on Tuesday, “and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they do not do so.”
After being asked by Republican Rep. Tom Rooney if he had found “any direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin in Moscow” during his tenure, Brennan said that “there was intelligence that the Russian intelligence services were actively involved in this effort … to try to get individuals to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.”
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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