Posted by: maboulette | February 24, 2017

The Investigation of Trump Aides and Russian Officials


trump-and-putin

For months, President Trump and his aides have made the claim that they had no contact with Russian officials during the presidential campaign, a denial Mr. Trump repeated last week.

“I have nothing to do with Russia,” he told reporters on Thursday. “To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”

The denial is at odds with the statements Russian officials have made.  The Russians maintain that contact was made at least twice with Trump aides prior to the election.  

NOT UNCOMMON

It is not uncommon for a presidential campaign to want to develop contact with foreign officials, which seems to make this dispute especially unusual.  At the same time, any contacts would have been during a period when American intelligent agencies believe that the Russian government was attempting to disrupt the election with a campaign of computer hacking.

DISPUTE

The dispute began two days after the Nov. 8th election, when Sergei A. Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said his government had maintained contacts with members of Trump’s “immediate entourage” during the campaign.

“I cannot say that all, but a number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives,” Mr. Ryabkov said during an interview with the Interfax news agency.

SWIFT DENIAL 

Mr. Ryabkov’s comments were met with a swift denial from Hope Hicks, spokeswoman for Trump and now a member of the White House press team.

RUSSIAN TO WASHINGTON POST

More recently, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey I. Kislyak, told The Washington Post that he had communicated often during the campaign with Michael Flynn, a close campaign adviser to Trump who became the president’s national security adviser before being asked last week to resign from that position.

“It’s something all diplomats do,” The Post quoted Mr. Kislyak as saying, though he refused to say what subjects they discussed.

Mr. Trump and his aides denied any contacts occurred during the campaign.

NON-STORY

“This is a non-story because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said on Monday.

The Russian government did not respond to a message over the weekend seeking comment.

NEW YORK TIMES

Separately, The New York Times and other news outlets reported last week that campaign advisers for Trump and other associates of Trump’s in 2016 had made repeated exchanges with Russian intelligence officials. Those reports, citing anonymous former and current U.S. government officials, were vehemently denied by the White House.

TRUMP ANNOYED

On Thursday, Mr. Trump made very clear how annoyed when questioned about contacts with Russia.

“How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said during a White House news conference.

“ILLEGAL” LEAKS

The president also lashed out at “illegal” leaks for bringing down Mr. Flynn, whom the White House has accredited multiple conversations after the election — in late December — with Mr. Kislyak about sanctions being imposed by the Obama administration.

NONE WOULD BLINK

Under ordinary circumstances, few in Washington would blink at the statements by Mr. Ryabkov or Mr. Kislyak. It is quite common for foreign governments to reach out to American presidential candidates, and many foreign diplomats assume it is part of their job to get to know people who may soon be crucial to maintaining associations or repairing broken relationships.

OBAMA TRANSITION 2008

“They want to better understand policy views of a particular candidate so they can perhaps make their case for certain policies,” said Derek Chollet, who was part of the Obama transition in 2008 and then served in senior roles at the State Department, the White House and the Pentagon.

Mostly, though, “it’s about relationship building — they want to get to know the people who are possibly going to be in important jobs,” he added.

CONTACTS

The closest contacts between campaigns and foreign officials tend to be with allies. Mr. Trump visited Israel during the campaign, the Australian Embassy said it was in contact with the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and British officials said they had extensive contacts with the president’s top aides in the months before the election.

POTENTIAL ADVERSARIES

Contacts with potential adversaries, such as Russia, are also not unusual, but they are more complicated. Michael McFaul, who advised the Obama campaign in 2008 and later served as United States ambassador to Russia, said that he traveled to Moscow during the presidential race that year and that “everyone in Moscow knew that I was advising the campaign.”

The American Embassy even hosted a lunch for him with Russian officials. But “I was not there to discuss Obama policy but to better inform my views on Russian attitudes about U.S.-Russia relations,” Mr. McFaul said.

“ONE PRESIDENT AT A TIME”

He further stated that during the transition, Russian officials wanted to talk about policy issues, but the Obama administration officials refused — in keeping with the tradition that there should be only “one president at a time.”

RECENT REPORTS

This is not the end as today 2/24 it is being reported that the Trump administration has been asking for officials in the FBI to dispute any claims that have been made which FBI has refused to do. Also today it is being reported by several news organizations that Trump is “blasting” the FBI for continued leaks of the investigation to Trump-Russia contacts.

Also today, NBC news is reporting that the FBI is sitting on extensive evidence that Russia was supporting Trump.

 

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