New reports about the initial stages of the Russia investigation last year are only raising more questions.
A series of accounts published this week sheds some light on how the U.S. intelligence community discovered the country’s covert efforts to influence the American political process. The New York Times reported Wednesday that American spies picked up conversations between top Russian officials discussing ways to influence two top members of President Trump’s campaign: Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman who resigned last August, and Michael Flynn, a foreign-policy surrogate who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser after his inauguration in January.
Both men have well-documented ties with Russia. Manafort worked for Moscow-aligned political candidates as a consultant in Ukraine prior to the Euromaidan revolution in 2014, and Flynn received payments from Russian business sources, including the Kremlin-financed media network Russia Today. According to the Times, the senior officials hoped to use those ties to influence the Trump campaign. The story doesn’t offer details about what their ultimate aim was.
“Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn,” the Times report said, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence sources. “Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.” Flynn and Manafort have denied any wrongdoing in the ongoing Russia investigation.