Senior Russian intelligence and political officials discussed how to influence Donald Trump through his advisers according to information gathered by American spies last summer, the New York Times reported on Wednesday,
Citing three current and former U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence, the newspaper said the conversations focused on Paul Manafort, then the Trump presidential campaign chairman, and Michael Flynn, a retired general who was then advising Trump.
U.S. congressional committees and a special counsel named by the Justice Department this month are investigating whether there was Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.
The controversy has engulfed Trump's young administration since he fired FBI Director James Comey two weeks ago amid the agency's investigation of possible Russia ties. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations and Trump denies any collusion.
The New York Times report was the latest indication of the depth of concerns within the U.S. intelligence community about Russian efforts to tip November's election toward Trump as he battled Democrat Hillary Clinton.
On Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan told lawmakers he had noticed contacts between associates of Trump's campaign and Russia during the campaign and grew concerned Moscow had sought to lure Americans down "a treasonous path."
According to the Times, some Russians boasted about how well they knew Flynn, who was subsequently named Trump's national security adviser before being dismissed less than a month after the Republican took office.
Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Manafort, who was dismissed from Trump's campaign, the newspaper reported.
The intelligence was among the clues, including information about direct communications between Trump's advisers and Russian officials, U.S. officials received last year as they began looking into Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Trump's associates were assisting Moscow, the newspaper said.
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