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It shouldn’t be shocking news at this point. After all, Russian officials were bragging about it just two days after the election.
Russia said it was in contact with President-elect Donald Trump’s team during the U.S. election campaign, despite repeated denials by the Republican candidate’s advisers that any links existed.
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
Not only are there are records of the Trump team talking with Russian counterparts, those conversations were under scrutiny from US intelligence. That means they know who. They know when, and they know that the Trump team is still lying to everyone.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 14, 2017
Of special note: The Trump team was making calls, not to Russian ministers, or Russian media, or Russian experts. They were calling “senior Russian intelligence officials.” In the parlance of a Cold War spy novel — they were checking in with their KGB handlers.
The intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
Trump was saying that publicly, while in secret his team was talking directly to Russia. Were they making the same request?
When Harry Reid was so frustrated by FBI Director James Comey’s failure to come forward with any comment on Trump’s Russian connections and other senators were likewise stonewalled by Comey, this information was already in the hands of the FBI.
While the New York Times seems anxious to cover this story now, just one week before the election, they completely spiked this story.
Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.
This story came out the same evening as two breaking stories on connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, and were part of what appears to have been carefully timed “leaks” from the Trump-friendly New York FBI office made to keep this story quiet. In the end, the Times ran this single “nothing to see here” story buried pages in just two days after Comey’s letter on Hillary’s email was the subject of every column on the first page.
But as more and more evidence leaks, it’s not just Oroville Dam that’s appearing as if it might collapse.
Both the frequency of the communications and the proximity to Trump of those involved “raised a red flag” with US intelligence and law enforcement, according to these officials. The communications were intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting Russian officials and other Russian nationals known to US intelligence.
Officials emphasized that communications between campaign staff and representatives of foreign governments are not unusual. However, these communications stood out to investigators due to the frequency and the level of the Trump advisers involved. Investigators have not reached a judgment on the intent of those conversations
Both Trump and Obama were briefed on these communications following the election. If Donald Trump didn’t know over the course of the campaign, which is hard to believe, he absolutely knew for the last three months that some of his people were frequently in communications with Russian officials. And yet Sean Spicer is still standing up there, denying it.
We know it happened. We know they’re lying. Now we wait for names, and dates, and transcripts.
By Mark Sumner