It appears that President Donald Trump's advisers have been in contact with Russian officials since his presidential campaign.
Multiple sources connected to the intelligence and law enforcement communities are reporting that Trump's top advisers maintained constant contact with Russian officials, according to a report by CNN, despite constant refusals from the Trump campaign. These included two advisers who have since resigned after their connections became known — former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.
It has also been reported that the American officials became aware of these contacts at roughly the same time when they learned that Russia had hacked into the Democratic National Committee, according to a report by The New York Times. The Times' sources also disclosed that the contacts included Trump associates outside of his campaign as well as within it. It is unclear who the Russian officials were or what was discussed during the conversations.
Flynn's involvement is particularly notable now, given that he was forced to resign yesterday due to revelations that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about his role in discussing President Barack Obama's sanctions against Russia with that nation's ambassador to this country.
While the sources emphasized that it is normal for presidential campaigns to maintain communications with foreign governments, they were alarmed by the frequency with which people close to the Trump campaign contacted Russian officials.
This isn't the first time that Manafort and Flynn have come under scrutiny for their relationship with Russia. Manafort worked for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was a puppet for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, while Flynn appeared on Russia's state-sponsored television network and attended a dinner seated near Putin.
These revelations will put President Trump in the hot seat, particularly given the numerous holes in the story being presented by the administration about when he knew that Flynn had discussed Obama's sanctions with Russia — or, for that matter, whether Trump himself ordered it. It doesn't help that Trump has a number of pre-existing connections to Russia, from business connections he forged after American banks stopped loaning him money to the ties of advisers like Flynn, Manafort, former adviser Carter Page and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
On Wednesday morning, Trump was quick to dismiss the claims.