Kremlin officials discussed having potentially "derogatory" information about Donald Trump and his top campaign aides that they hoped to use as leverage in conversations interrupted by US intelligence agencies during the 2016 election, according to a report on Tuesday.
Russian officials reportedly believed "they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information", according to CNN, but it is unclear when during the election the conversation took place. One said that the American names were all masked in the intelligence report, but that the larger substance of the conversation was about the Trump campaign.
The sources cautioned that the Russian claims may have been exaggerated or even made up as part of a disinformation campaign, but US intelligence services believed the conversation showed a clear intent by Russia to influence the presidential election between Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Tuesday's report follows reports that Russian officials claimed in intercepted conversations that Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law, sought to establish a covert communications back channel with Russia.
Trump has refused to release copies of his tax returns that critics say would show whether he has any financial connections in Russian Federation.
Manafort is known to have extensive business ties to the Russians, but he has repeatedly denied allegations that he has illicit financial links with the Russians.More news: Two vehicle bombs kill at least 27 in Baghdad
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An unnamed White House spokesperson categorically denied CNN's report, saying it's "yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the president".
Multiple members of the Trump campaign are being probed by Congress and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over possible collusion with Russian Federation to influence the 2016 election.
The FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the United States election, recently handed over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, includes seeking answers as to whether there was any coordination with associates of Trump and includes examining financial dealings of key Trump associates.
On May 8 former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the White House was warned in January that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Epshteyn's public comments on Russian Federation have been very cautious. On May 12, the global law firm Morgan Lewis asserted that the president had no outstanding debts to Russian officials or citizens after reviewing 10 years of his tax returns, Reuters reports. The first was income Trump received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow.