The Washington Post reported on Sunday night that at least nine people close to President Donald Trump had contacts with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign and White House transition.
The Post‘s Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig tracked interactions between Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump Jr. — all of whom had meetings or communications with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, Kremlin cut-out Natalia Veselnitskaya, agents of Russian banks, Putin-aligned interests in Ukraine and Russia and a number of Russian oligarchs.
These contacts came to light either through testimony or documents unsealed by the Mueller investigation and — while it’s not currently known whether the meetings were part of a coordinated campaign to influence and infiltrate the Trump campaign — are generally understood in terms of their intent and the possible reasons behind them.
“Some potential contacts with Russians are not fully understood,” said the Post.
Erik Prince — founder of the priavte security agency Blackwater — traveled to the United Arab Emirates before Trump’s inauguration to meet with a Putin representative. The trip was part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and the nascent Trump administration.
Trump campaign official Rick Dearborn was contacted during the 2016 run by a group of Russians led by suspected Kremlin operative Maria Butina. Butina reached out to the campaign through Iraq War contractor Rick Clay.
Clay told the Post that Dearborn declined to take the meeting.
“They made the right call,” he said.