The unprecedented flow of leaks coming out of the American intelligence community about President Donald Trump and members of his inner circle does not appear to be stemming anytime soon. Tonight, the New York Times published a report based on the account of anonymous U.S. intelligence officials detailing how “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.” The Times notes that U.S. intelligence “intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee.”
The National Security Agency, which monitors the communications of foreign intelligence services, initially captured the communications between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russians as part of routine foreign surveillance. After that, the F.B.I. asked the N.S.A. to collect as much information as possible about the Russian operatives on the phone calls, and to search through troves of previous intercepted communications that had not been analyzed.
But 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.
The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the Russian government outside of the intelligence services, the officials said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.
The report notes that U.S. intelligence has been trying to determine whether or not Trump campaign officials were colluding with Russian intelligence, but that so far “they had seen no evidence of such cooperation” at this time. While “officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, which Russian intelligence officials were on the calls, and how many of Mr. Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians,” the report does disclose that one of the Trump campaign officials identified on the calls was former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. As you may recall, Manafort resigned largely due to a firestorm of controversy surrounding his ties to Russia.
Just last night, Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn resigned from his post due to a series of controversies stemming from his close ties to Russia and Russian government officials. And a recent report in Foreign Policy states that Russian officials are having seconds thoughts about having aligned themselves with Trump.