Donald Trump’s claims his team had no contact with Russian authorities during the presidential election campaign have been cast into doubt after Kremlin officials admitted they had been in touch with members of his staff.
The US President has repeatedly denied his team were in contact with representatives of the Russian state during a campaign in which Moscow is accused of using cyber attacks to try to influence the election outcome.
“I have nothing to do with Russia”, Mr Trump said during a White House press conference last week. “To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”
“How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.”
That claim, which has been repeated several times by different members of Mr Trump’s team, appears to contradict statements made by senior Russian officials.
Two days after Mr Trump’s election victory, the Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said his government had been in touch with Mr Trump’s advisers during the campaign.
“I cannot say that all, but a number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives”, Mr Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency. Mr Trump’s team immediately denied the claims.
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
1/9 Trump and the media
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes questions during the daily press briefing
2/9 Trump and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Union leaders applaud US President Donald Trump for signing an executive order withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington DC. Mr Trump issued a presidential memorandum in January announcing that the US would withdraw from the trade deal
3/9 Trump and the Mexico wall
A US Border Patrol vehicle sits waiting for illegal immigrants at a fence opening near the US-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. The number of incoming immigrants has surged ahead of the upcoming Presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, who has pledged to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. A signature campaign promise, Mr Trump outlined his intention to build a border wall on the US-Mexico border days after taking office
4/9 Trump and abortion
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office of the White House. Mr Trump reinstated a ban on American financial aide being granted to non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling, provide abortion referrals, or advocate for abortion access outside of the United States
5/9 Trump and the Dakota Access pipeline
Opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines hold a rally as they protest US President Donald Trump's executive orders advancing their construction, at Columbus Circle in New York. US President Donald Trump signed executive orders reviving the construction of two controversial oil pipelines, but said the projects would be subject to renegotiation
6/9 Trump and 'Obamacare'
Nancy Pelosi who is the minority leader of the House of Representatives speaks beside House Democrats at an event to protect the Affordable Care Act in Los Angeles, California. US President Donald Trump's effort to make good on his campaign promise to repeal and replace the healthcare law failed when Republicans failed to get enough votes. Mr Trump has promised to revisit the matter
7/9 Donald Trump and 'sanctuary cities'
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January threatening to pull funding for so-called "sanctuary cities" if they do not comply with federal immigration law
8/9 Trump and the travel ban
US President Donald Trump has attempted twice to restrict travel into the United States from several predominantly Muslim countries. The first attempt, in February, was met with swift opposition from protesters who flocked to airports around the country. That travel ban was later blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The second ban was blocked by a federal judge a day before it was scheduled to be implemented in mid-March
SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images
9/9 Trump and climate change
US President Donald Trump sought to dismantle several of his predecessor's actions on climate change in March. His order instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to reevaluate the Clean Power Plan, which would cap power plant emissions
Then, earlier this month, the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, said he had been in frequent contact during the election campaign with Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Mr Trump who was appointed as the President’s national security adviser before being forced to resign last week over his links to Russia.
Ms Kislyak told media he had exchanged text messages with Mr Flynn during the campaign and had spoken to him on the phone and in person, according to the Washington Post.
“It’s something all diplomats do”, he said.
In response, Sarah Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said: “This is a non-story because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”
The New York Times reported earlier this month that transcripts from conversations intercepted by US agencies revealed contact between Russian officials and a number of unnamed members of Mr Trump’s top team.
It is not unusual for foreign governments to make contact with US presidential candidates in the hope of building relationships and gaining influence with the next occupier of the Oval Office.
What is unusual in Mr Trump’s case is that, at the time conversations are said to have taken place, Russia was being investigated by US security services over suspicions it was involved in hacking Democratic National Committee computers in an attempt to influence the election outcome.
Officials later concluded with “high confidence” that Russia had indeed been behind the hacks.
Mr Trump’s repeated denials of contact between his team and Russia add an extra element of intrigue to a mystery that continues to deepen.Reuse content