‘Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians’

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Washington, March 23 (IANS) The FBI has information that indicates President Donald Trump’s associates may have communicated with suspected Russian operatives to influence the November presidential polls, a media report said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says the Russian operatives may have possibly coordinated the release of information damaging to Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement on Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those US officials.

The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing, CNN reported on Wednesday.

In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

The White House did not comment and the FBI declined to comment.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer maintained Monday after Comey’s testimony that there was no evidence to suggest any collusion took place.

“Investigating it and having proof of it are two different things,” Spicer said.

One law enforcement official told CNN the information in hand suggests “people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready.”

But other US officials who spoke to CNN say it’s premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it’s largely circumstantial.

The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.

The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates — Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page — for contacts with Russians known to US intelligence.

All four have denied improper contacts and CNN has not confirmed any of them are the subjects of the information the FBI is reviewing.–IANS

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