President Donald Trump has responded on Twitter to the recent allegations that members of his campaign staff were in talks with Russian operatives in the lead-up to the election. In his response, he blamed the allegations on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
CNN reports that Trump’s team is under fire for allegedly communicating with Russian officials at a higher than average frequency prior to the election.
In response to the controversy, Trump issued the following Tweet: "This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign."
Trump has issued further tweets defending his administration:
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"The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by 'intelligence' like candy. Very un-American!"
"Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?"
Trump’s chief campaign strategist, Paul Manafort, vehemently denies speaking with Russian Intelligence Officials. "That is 100% not true, at least as far as me," he said. "I cannot believe that they are including me in anything like that. I have not been involved in any of these activities."
Manafort has come under scrutiny due to his close ties to the Yanukovitch government in Ukraine, widely viewed as a very pro-Russia regime.
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"I don't remember talking to any Russian officials, ever. Certainly during the time we're talking about," Manafort reiterated. “I have knowingly never talked to any intelligence official or anyone in Russia regarding anything of what's under investigation," he added. "I have never had any connection to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or the Russian government before, during or after the campaign."
Despite Manafort’s insistence and Trump’s latest tweet, there are widespread concerns that members of the Trump campaign team may have coordinated with Russian intelligence to leak documents and spread fake news in the lead-up to the election.
"If that were the case, then that would escalate things," said one official who was briefed on the investigation.