News agencies are reporting today, including CNN and the New York Times, that Trump campaign aides had repeated communications with the Russians during the 2016 Presidential Election, but the reason for those communications are unclear at this time.
Law enforcement and Intelligence officials agree there is evidence Russia was attempting to disrupt and influence the election, but beyond that, other reasons for contact has yet to be determined. There seems to be little doubt former intelligence advisor Michael Flynn spoke to a Russian operative about sanctions put in place by the Obama Administration and then lied about those conversations. Flynn resigned yesterday, which has heightened the search for the full truth by the press.
Communications intercepted by the intelligence community are not limited to Trump campaign officials, but include other Trump associates. Those who have spoken about those communications to this point have done so on condition of anonymity, due to their classified nature.
Names that have come up in the investigation so far include: Paul Manafort; a former Trump campaign chairman, Carter Page; former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, Roger Stone; a longtime Republican supporter and Michael Flynn.
Manafort has indicated he had not spoken to the Russian government, and said his communications were mainly with the Ukrainian President and his associates involving business dealings. He said, to his knowledge he has never spoken to a Russian operative. “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer,’” Manafort is quoted as saying by the New York Times. In fairness, spies are usually deeply embedded, so it is possible to speak to one without the knowledge of doing so.
However, two days after the 2016 election Sergei A. Ryabkov, a Russian deputy foreign minister said there were contacts with operative during the campaign. It’s unknown who made those contacts or the motives behind them. The Trump Administration has said Ryabkov’s statements are not accurate. So you can believe the Trump Administration or your own lying eyes.
Meanwhile, the intelligence agencies are continuing to sift through the huge amount of information that various agencies have amassed. All the men previously mentioned in this story have denied any improper contact with the Russians, and a Congressional investigation into the DNC hacking is bogged down, but ongoing.
Flynn’s resignation may be the end of the story or just the beginning. Mark Warner (D-Va) said General Flynn’s resignation will not stop further investigation. In addition, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee with Warner, said the committee’s probe must include an examination of any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis), sidestepped questioning about further investigations, saying he would leave that up to the Administration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said any new investigations were “highly unlikely,”