As the timeline of possible connections between Russia and Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign continues to grow, a new CNN report on Tuesday promises to add yet another bullet point if proven true. That’s because a congressional source and two former intelligence officials with knowledge of the matter told the outlet that Russian officials discussed using “derogatory” information they possessed to influence the Republican presidential candidate and his associates during the campaign. The purported conversations were intercepted by U.S. intelligence during the 2016 election.
According to CNN, U.S. officials obtained Russian communications in which the latter believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.” The precise content of the so-called “derogatory information” remains unknown, though similar intelligence obtained in the past year identified former campaign manager Paul Manafort and ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn as potential security risks on all things Russia. What’s more, additional intel has more recently targeted Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, whom the president has vigorously defended.
Of course, as CNN’s sources note, the Russians “could have been exaggerated or even made up” their claims of influence in the intercepted communications. “The Russians could be overstating their belief to influence,” another source added for emphasis. When reached for comment, the White House categorically denied CNN’s report and attempted to shift the focus to the seemingly continuous stream of leaks. “This is yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the President,” said an unidentified spokesperson. “There appears to be no limit to which the President’s political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material.”