The U.S. intelligence community intercepted conversations between Kremlin officials who boasted of having potentially “derogatory” information about Donald Trump and his advisers during the 2016 campaign, CNN reported Tuesday.
CNN’s report cited two unnamed former intelligence officials and a congressional source, one of whom indicated that the “derogatory” information was financial. The sources noted it was unclear if the Russians’ claims were legitimate or if, knowing their communications were monitored, they had intentionally tried to mislead U.S. officials.
Trump campaign associates’ financial dealings have become a part of both the federal and congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election. The Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit, which specializes in money laundering, has provided records to the Senate Intelligence Committee and FBI about the business ties of both Trump and his aides. Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is also under scrutiny for a meeting he had with the head of a state-run Russian bank sanctioned by the U.S.
One source told CNN that the Russians whose conversations were intercepted believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.”
The White House denied that any such communications occurred.
“This is yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the President,” an anonymous administration spokesperson told CNN. “The reality is, a review of the President’s income from the last ten years showed he had virtually no financial ties at all. There appears to be no limit to which the President’s political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material. All this does is play into the hands of our adversaries and put our country at risk.”
U.S. intelligence officials also intercepted communications last summer in which Russian officials bragged about their ability to influence Trump through their working relationships with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to various reports.
A still-mostly unverified dossier compiled by a former British spy alleged that Russian officials had potentially compromising information about Trump and members of his inner circle as well.