On the eve of the inauguration, the New York Times, citing unnamed officials, reported that the FBI and intelligence agencies “are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.”
Manafort left the campaign in August amid reports Ukrainian authorities were investigating him for allegedly receiving $12.7 million in illegal payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russia ruling party. The Times reports that Roger Stone and former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page and Roger Stone are the two other Trump associates under investigation. It’s unclear whether the communications and transactions in question have anything directly to do with Trump or his campaign.
The Times report comes a day after the McClatchy Washington Bureau broke news that “the FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump.” Earlier this month, intelligence agencies released a report detailing how they believe Russian officials meddled in the election on behalf of Trump, who has signaled a desire to forge closer ties with Russia and repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The intelligence community’s findings about Russian meddling have fueled an ongoing feud with President-elect Trump, who in December released a statement questioning their conclusions and describing intelligence officials as “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Earlier this month, Trump compared leaks from intelligence officials about Russian meddling to the behavior of officials in Nazi Germany.
During a news conference last week, Trump acknowledged that Russia may have meddled in the election, but described an unverified dossier that alleged his campaign had colluded with the country as a “complete and total fabrication.”
The Times reports that intelligence officials leaked details of their investigation ahead of Trump’s inauguration on Friday.
“Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts,” the report says.
Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern that the Trump administration — including a staunchly pro-Russia national security adviser (Michael Flynn) and possibly including a secretary of state who has received the Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin (Rex Tillerson) — could quash ongoing investigations into Trump’s ties with the Kremlin.
The New York Times’ reporting about federal investigations into ties between Trump’s inner circle and Russia comes months after the publication ran a story claiming that the FBI has “not found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”
That piece, which was published just days before the election, also said intelligence officials had concluded Russian efforts to covertly influence the U.S. election were “aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.” Those leaks stand in contrast to what intelligence officials have said publicly following the election.