WASHINGTON — A limited number of associates linked to President Trump’s campaign and business interests are part of the ongoing federal inquiry into communications with Russian government officials who sought to meddle in the November election, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
The extent and purpose of those alleged contacts continue to be weighed, including whether the associates were aware that they were communicating with Russian intelligence officials or those working on behalf of the Russian government, said the official who is not authorized to comment publicly, adding there is no evidence so far of collusion to tilt the election.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that phone records and intercepted calls show that Trump campaign officials last year spoke with key people in Russian intelligence.
While former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was fired earlier this week for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, the official said the course of the months-long inquiry — which has amassed intercepts of telephone calls, business records and subject interviews — has not been significantly altered.
Flynn was interviewed by FBI agents following last month’s inauguration after public statements by top administration officials, including Vice President Pence, about Flynn’s pre-inaugural discussions with the Russian ambassador did not track the contents of the intercepted telephone calls. The administration officials had strongly refuted claims that Flynn had discussed sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration.
The transcripts of the calls proved otherwise, prompting then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates to alert White House Counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail as a result of his misrepresentations to senior officials.
Amid the renewed questions and investigations about contacts between his associates and Russia over last year’s election, President Trump on Wednesday denounced “conspiracy theories” about his relationship with the Russians and said “illegal” news leaks brought down Flynn.
“It’s a criminal act and it’s been going on for a long time — before me, but now it’s really going on,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While aides said Trump was the one who demanded Flynn’s resignation on Monday over lying about his talk with the Russian ambassador to the United States, the president praised his former aide to reporters as “a wonderful man” who has been treated “very unfairly” by what he called the “fake media, in many cases.”
Trump’s comments came as congressional Democrats, and some Republicans, served notice that the Russia story is not going away, especially in light of Flynn’s resignation and…