Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties via calls and emails.
Current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters that 18 calls and emails took place in the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.
They said six of the previously undisclosed contacts were phone calls between Kislyak and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former.
Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the November 8 vote.
The two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations.
In January, the White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, but later confirmed four meetings between Kislyak and Trump advisers during that time.
In addition to the six phone calls involving Kislyak, the communications described to Reuters involved another 12 calls, emails or text messages between Russian officials or people considered to be close to Putin and Trump campaign advisers.
According to sources, one of those contacts was by Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and politician.
It was not clear with whom Medvedchuk was in contact within the Trump campaign but the themes included U.S.-Russia cooperation.
“I am not acquainted with any of Donald Trump’s close associates, therefore no such conversation could have taken place,” he said in an email to Reuters.
The sources said in the conversations during the campaign, Russian officials emphasised a pragmatic, business-style approach and stressed to Trump associates that they could make deals by focusing on common economic and other interests and leaving contentious issues aside.
Meanwhile, members of the Senate and House intelligence committees have gone to the CIA and the National Security Agency to review transcripts and other documents related to contacts between Trump campaign advisers, associates, Russian officials and others with links to Putin.
The U.S. Justice Department announced on Wednesday it had appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential campaign and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.