U.S. intelligence officials heard Russian officials discussing associates of President Donald Trump in early 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The report comes one day after the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. released screenshots of emails showing he was contacted in June 2016 about a meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. has defended his decision to take the meeting, describing it as routine gathering of opposition research. Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign manager, as well as Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, also attended the meeting.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, the conversations were picked up by intelligence officials who routinely monitor communications (including phone calls and emails) between people believed to be involved in Russian spying on the U.S. While WSJ’s sources did not say which associates were mentioned, they noted that the conversations included references to meetings between Trump’s allies and Russian officials held outside the U.S.
Officials are now reportedly revisiting those conversations in the wake of the Trump Jr. email revelations.
The White House didn’t immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment. But in a statement provided to BuzzFeed, a spokesman for Trump’s attorney dismissed the story as “double hearsay.”
The FBI, under the supervision of special prosecutor and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, is currently investigating whether Trump’s team actively colluded with Russian officials to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
Manafort and Kushner are both under scrutiny in the investigation, as is the president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn resigned from his role in the administration after it was revealed he discussed repealing U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the U.S. prior to Trump’s inauguration, and then lied about the nature of those conversations.
The FBI is also reportedly looking at Carter Page, a onetime foreign policy adviser to the campaign, as well as Trump political adviser Roger Stone.
Trump and his team have vociferously denied any collusion.
The president has also defended his son in the wake of the email scandal, calling Trump Jr. a “high-quality person.”