A May 18 report says advisers to President Donald Trump’s campaign, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russian officials and people with ties to the Kremlin between April and November.
Current and former U.S. officials told Reuters that the Trump campaign-Russia contacts were in the form of phone calls and emails. These alleged contacts happened during the illegal hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign.
The FBI and congressional investigators are investigating the reported interactions between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Three current and former officials said that six of these contacts were phone calls between Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Trump advisers, including Flynn.
Four current U.S. officials said that after Trump won the election on Nov. 8, Flynn and Kislyak had more contact, and even discussed creating a back channel between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump that would intentionally bypass U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides did not like.
In January, the White House denied any contact with Russian officials during the presidential campaign. Since that denial, there have been four confirmed contacts between Trump advisers and Kislyak, including a confirmation from the White House that Kislyak had met twice with then-Senator and current-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump fired Flynn in February, after it became publicly-known that he falsely characterized to Vice President Mike Pence the nature of phone conversations with Kislyak in December.
The officials told Reuters that there is no evidence of wrongdoing so far, but the disclosure may pressure the White House to provide a thorough account of contacts with Russian officials and others who are linked to the Kremlin.
The White House, Flynn's lawyer, a Russian foreign ministry official and a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington D.C. refused to comment on the Reuters story.
The U.S. Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller on May 17 to be a special counsel to investigate the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and the reported meddling by Russia in the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump expressed his anger over the special counsel on Twitter on May 18: "With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!"
Trump also asserted that the investigation was the biggest U.S. witch hunt ever: "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"