Politics

Report: Russia Probe Seeks Out Top White House Official

| by Lauren Briggs
The White House in Washington, DCThe White House in Washington, DC

A senior White House official who is close to President Donald Trump is reportedly a person of interest in the probe into whether or not Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in the Republican candidate's favor.

The identity of the official is not yet publicly known, although the report, released by the Washington Post, referred to the individual as a "significant person of interest."

Sources said that the investigation is expected to pick up, while those conducting the probe have honed in on people such as former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, both of whom allegedly have ties to Russia but are not presently involved in Trump's administration.

Despite the increasingly public steps in the investigation, now led by special prosecutor and former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, criminal charges are not necessarily imminent, said people familiar with the process.

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Trump's team has denied all allegations.

"As the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity," said White House spokesman Sean Spicer, according to the Post.

Trump said on May 18 that there he and his campaign had "zero" connections with Russia regarding the campaign.

"And there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign -- but I can always speak for myself -- and the Russians," Trump said during a news conference.

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At the time, he also said that he respects the fact that the Justice Department determined it was necessary to appoint a special counsel to continue the investigation but that he found "the entire thing" to be "a witch hunt," according to The New York Times.

Trump has come under fire for firing FBI Director James Comey, a decision which he has attributed in part to the way that the FBI handled the Russia probe.

"Director Comey was very unpopular with most people," said Trump. "When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner have all reportedly communicated with Russian officials, notes the Post.

"I can't confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of investigations or targets of investigations," said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

Sources: Washington Post, The New York Times / Photo Credit: Eric Salard/Flickr

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