Russian officials spoke openly about “derogatory” financial information they claimed to have on then-candidate Donald Trump and his close circle of advisers during calls intercepted by U.S. intelligence, CNN reported.
Two former intelligence officials and a source in Congress confirmed the information. One source told the broadcaster the intercepts during the 2016 campaign were about finances and whether Russia had leverage on Trump’s inner circle.
The Russians believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information,” one of the sources told CNN.
Other sources, however, warned that the Russian officials’ claims “could have been exaggerated or even made up.”
In early January, America’s intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election using a combination of disinformation through false stories and emails hacked from the Democrat and Republican parties.
In the intercepted communications the officials could have been “overstating their belief to influence,” one of the sources said. The sources would not tell CNN which Trump aides were mentioned by the Russians.
The finances of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, have come under intense scrutiny from law enforcement. Flynn’s former business associates received subpoenas in May.
U.S. agents working in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network began combing through Manafort’s offshore accounts in Cyprus earlier this year. No member of Trump’s campaign, transition or White House team has been charged with a crime.
Both Manafort and Flynn were revealed to have been picked up by…