Well, here is some bad news, with a little bit of “I guess that’s fine” news crammed in for good measure: it seems campaign staff and other associates of President Donald Trump had “repeated contacts” with senior Russian intelligence officers during the campaign, according to a report from the New York Times.
The Times reports that the news was discovered around the time the intelligence community was looking for evidence that Russia hacked the D.N.C in an attempt to sway the election Here’s the tiny bit of “good” news: according to their sources, for now there is no evidence that the Trump campaign was working with Russia to orchestrate the hacks.
CNN reports that while it’s not unusual for campaign staff and various members of foreign governments to talk, the “level” of the Trump advisers speaking to Russia and the frequency of their communication was enough to prompt further investigation. Another fun fact: U.S. intelligence officials were concerned about two of the Russian intelligence officers’ boasts that they had “special access” to Trump, though there’s no proof that they actually did and there’s a very good chance they were stretching the truth.
Given Trump’s passion for Vladimir Putin, this news is distressing in and of itself. The timing of the communication between Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence was also suspect.
From the Times:
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.
One of the people picked up on these communications was none other than Paul Manafort, former national chairman of the Trump campaign who resigned in August due to his extremely sketchy connections to Russia, only to be replaced by the unique evil that is Kellyanne Conway. In an interview with the Times on Thursday, he denied any wrongdoing:
“This is absurd,” he said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”
Mr. Manafort added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”
Yes, Mr. Manafort. That’s absolutely correct. They do not wear badges that say “I’m a Russian intelligence officer” because that would defeat the purpose of being a Russian intelligence officer, you freaking nitwit.
Details of the intercepted calls are few and far between and it’s unclear whether or not any of the calls discussed Trump. These calls are also different from the kerfuffle that caused National Security advisor Michael Flynn to resign on Monday. Those were about sanctions imposed by President Obama. Hard to keep track, with so much terrible happening every single day, I know. These calls could have been about anything, really, but not knowing almost makes it worse.
The headline has been corrected to reflect that Trump campaign staff, not officials, were in contact with Russian intelligence. Jezebel regrets the error.