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    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    Russian Officials Overheard Discussing Trump Associates Before Campaign Began

    Investigators are re-examining conversations detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in spring 2015 that captured Russian government officials discussing associates of Donald Trump, according to current and former U.S. officials, a move prompted by revelations that the president’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer last year.



    In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers, these people said.

    Russian officials are routinely monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, and it wouldn’t be unusual for them to discuss people who have business interests in Russia.


    Mr. Trump held the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, was a globally recognized celebrity and sold properties to Russians. The intelligence gathering wasn’t aimed at Mr. Trump or people in his circle, and it isn’t clear which Trump advisers or associates the Russians referred to, or whether they had any connection to his presidential aspirations.

    The 2015 conversations were detected several months before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy for the White House. The conversations have been in investigators’ possession for some time, but officials said the Donald Trump Jr. news this week prompted them to look at them again.

    In 2015, intelligence agencies weren’t sure what to make of the surveillance reports, which they viewed as vague and inconclusive, the current and former officials said. But the volume of the mentions of Trump associates by the Russians did have officials asking each other, “What’s going on?” one former official said.

    A lawyer for Mr. Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment on the 2015 conversations.

    Now, in light of the release of emails Tuesday by the president’s eldest son, describing a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, investigators are going back to those early reports. They are seeking new leads as they probe whether the Trump campaign colluded in what several U.S. intelligence agencies say was a Russian government-sponsored effort to meddle in the election to benefit Mr. Trump.

    Mr. Trump has denied any collusion and called the probes a “witch hunt.”

    You can find more info at wsj.com

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