Conservatives (GOP) introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

Conservatives introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

It’s the latest sign of GOP resistance to the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Three House Republicans on Friday moved to pressure special counsel Robert Mueller to resign over what they contend are “obvious conflicts of interest,” the latest instance of rising GOP resistance to his Russia probe.

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), introduced a measure that, while nonbinding, would put the House on record describing Mueller, a former FBI director, as unfit to lead the probe because of his relationship with James Comey, his successor at the bureau.

“[B]e it Resolved, That House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately,” the resolution states.

Mueller is investigating whether any Americans aided Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as whether figures in the Trump administration may have obstructed justice in part by moving to oust Comey in May, when the FBI’s Russia investigation was picking up steam. Mueller was appointed by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein after an uproar following President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

The move by the three lawmakers to seek Mueller’s resignation is a sign of intensifying frustration among Trump’s allies during the same week Mueller issued his first indictments in the probe: money laundering charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Mueller also secured a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a low-level campaign foreign policy adviser, who lied to the FBI about his attempts to arrange a meeting between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

The anger from Republicans appears to mirror the feelings of Trump, who on Friday unloaded in a series of tweets urging his own Justice Department to investigate Democrats — not him — for transgressions he says occurred during the 2016 election.

“This is real collusion and dishonesty. Major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering,” he said, accusing Democrats of the same charges that Manafort was hit with. “[W]here is our Justice Department?”

Most Republicans, including those in GOP leadership, are not on board with dismissing Mueller.

But the conservative push has worried some on the left, who are urging Democratic lawmakers to step up their defense of Mueller.

“While it might be ideal to wait to speak out until Mueller finishes his investigation, Trump’s defenders in Congress are not waiting to defend the President’s actions or to pass judgment on the investigation,” CAP Action Fund wrote in a memo being prepared for lawmakers and obtained by POLITICO. “The heightened risk to Trump from Mueller’s investigation also means there is a heightened risk to the Mueller investigation from Trump.”

Other conservatives, like Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), have already called for Mueller’s departure.

DeSantis, too, has ramped up his efforts to hinder Mueller’s investigation. He recently pushed an amendment, which failed to gain traction, that would have curtailed Mueller’s probe within six months and limited its scope.

And in a Thursday interview with Breitbart Radio, DeSantis blamed Rosenstein for a “clumsy” decision to appoint Mueller without putting strict limits on his scope.

“Rosenstein really muffed this,” he said.

Breitbart News Editor Alex Marlow, who interviewed DeSantis, promised to give his proposal a lot of airtime and ink.

“We’re going to be pushing it heavily or at least content on it heavily,” he said.

In his interview, DeSantis also foreshadowed the end of the House Intelligence Committee’s separate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“The good news on the congressional side, at least in the House, is from what I understand, they’ve really increased the frequency of the interviews of the people and I think on the House side this Russia-Trump [probe] is going to come to an end soon,” he said.

DeSantis isn’t on the intelligence panel but said talking to committee members, he’s convinced it’ll be done “certainly before the end of the year.”

He also said he’s been urging Speaker Paul Ryan to curtail the House investigation.

“I said, ‘Mr. Speaker, we’ve been spinning these wheels. There’s no evidence. If there is, produce it. I think we’d all like to see it. But if not, then we’ve got to get on with our business,’” adding, “I think that message has been received.”

While the new resolution faults Mueller for leading the probe despite his professional relationship with Comey, it also includes a broader broadside against the FBI.

The three lawmakers say the agency should be investigated for “willful blindness” over a seven-year-old sale of uranium production facilities to Russian interests, which conservatives have argued was approved in part by the Hillary Clinton-led State Department at the same time a party to the deal was making donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Mueller, they note, was presiding over the FBI at the time the agency was investigating a Russian bribery and extortion scheme connected to the uranium deal, but the agency declined to notify Congress of its investigation and prevented a confidential informant from notifying lawmakers.

“Any thorough and honest investigation into the corruption of American-uranium related business must include investigating the willful blindness of the FBI and its leaders,” according to the resolution.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

Manafort indictment, Papadopoulos guilty plea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITIFACT)

 

What you need to know about Manafort indictment, Papadopoulos guilty plea

  
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The special counsel’s investigation into possible ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia escalated dramatically with news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate were indicted on a dozen felony counts, including money laundering.

Separately, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI about outreach efforts to Russian government officials.

These mark the most significant developments to date in special counsel Robert Mueller’s five-month-old investigation. Here’s what you need to know.

The charges against Manafort and Gates

The 12 charges against Manafort and Gates fall broadly into three categories: failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of foreign entities, financial crimes and making false statements. (They pleaded not guilty to all charges.)

The first group of charges relates to their work on behalf of Ukraine, for which they’re charged with failing to fully and accurately disclose their activities as foreign agents.

Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates made tens of millions of dollars lobbying on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and the man who led it into power, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

But according to the indictment, from roughly 2008 through 2014, Manafort and Gates did not register with the U.S. attorney general as agents working on behalf of Ukrainian interests, as required by law. A separate count alleges they made false and misleading statements about their activities.

The second group of charges relates to financial crimes, including money laundering.

In order to hide the money from the U.S. government, the indictment states, Manafort and Gates “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and back accounts.” Manafort and Gates also stand accused of failing to report financial interests held overseas.

Finally, one count alleges that Manafort and Gates made false statements on their submissions to the U.S. Justice Department.

Why what they’re charged with is criminal

Manafort and Gates have been charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, for failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of foreign entities. Congress passed this law in 1938 amid worries that foreign governments would try to infiltrate the United States.

The law requires agents of foreign interests to register with the Justice Department and outline the terms of their agreement, as well as income and expenditures on behalf of the foreign interest, and updating their disclosure every six months.

“Lawmakers wanted to create barriers to infiltration and to expose hidden foreign lobbying on questionable positions that don’t focus on ‘patriotic purposes,’ ” said Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham Law School.

Shugerman said there are longstanding statutes on the books that outlaw money laundering and that require disclosure of foreign assets and bank accounts. He said money laundering laws have been rewritten through the years to create a new tool to combat organized crime and those who assist it.

Statutes that make it illegal to provide false statements date back to before the Civil War, he said.

Shugerman noted that a person does not need to be under oath when they make a false statement to the FBI in order to violate the law. That makes the law broader than perjury laws, which makes it illegal to tell untruths in a judicial proceeding after a witness has sworn an oath.

What Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to

In a separate development, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI.

Papadopoulos misled the bureau about the timing of his involvement with the campaign, as well as the significance of interactions he had with people he understood to be connected to Russian government officials.

According to the court filing, Papadopoulos falsely told the FBI that he was not part of the Trump campaign when a person described as an “overseas professor” told him that Russians possessed “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” In fact, Papadopoulos learned of the “dirt” in late April 2016, more than a month after signing on as a Trump adviser.

Papadopoulos also falsely downplayed the significance of his interactions with the professor. In his interview with the FBI, he dismissed the professor as “a nothing,” that he thought the professor was “just a guy talk(ing) up connections or something,” and believed he was “BS’ing to be completely honest with you.”

But according to the court filing, Papadopoulos “understood the professor to have substantial connections to high-level Russian government officials,” including officials in Moscow.

Papadopoulos also failed to disclose to the FBI that the professor had introduced him to someone in Moscow with a purported connection to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also misled the FBI about the timing and significance of his meeting with a female Russian national who he mistakenly believed was related to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

How it affects or didn’t affect 2016 election

There’s no direct evidence of collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the Manafort and Gates indictment, Shugerman said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized this point during a briefing with reporters.

“We’ve been saying from day one, there’s been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all,” she said.

Sanders said of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, “it has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign, it has to do with his failure to tell the truth. It doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign’s activities.”

But the revelations contained in the Papadopolous court filing are less easily dismissed.

Papadopoulos learned in early March 2016 that he would be an adviser to the Trump campaign on foreign policy, and that one of the campaign’s principal goals was to improve U.S.-Russian relations.

It was after joining the campaign that he cultivated relationships he would try to use to broker an overseas meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials. According to the court filing, the proposed trip never took place.

But Papadopolous’ repeated outreach efforts are sure to raise more questions of collusion, particularly in light of the fact that Donald Trump Jr. accepted a meetingduring the campaign that was predicated on the promise that a “Russian government attorney” would deliver damaging information to him about his father’s Democratic opponent as part of the Kremlin’s effort to tip the scales in Trump’s favor.

Papadopoulos’ guilty plea is the result of a negotiated resolution between the defendant and the Justice Department, said Andrew D. Leipold, law professor at University of Illinois College of Law.

But Leipold said it’s unclear what the terms of the agreement were, including the extent to which the deal was made in exchange for future or past cooperation.

While it’s not clear exactly what Papadopoulos’ guilty plea means, it contains “all kinds of tea leaves and hints about what’s coming next,” said Shugerman.

He believes it’s no coincidence that it was revealed just after Manafort’s indictment, and said it puts additional pressure on Manafort to cooperate with the special counsel.

“It triggers the isolation of Manafort, who realizes how much jeopardy he’s in,” Shugerman said.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders
White House Press Secretary
Sarah Huckabee Sanders said George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea “doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign’s activities.”

Cory Lewandowski Thinks If Paul Manafort Colluded With Russia He Should Go To Jail For Life

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWS)

Lewandowski: Manafort should go to jail for the rest of his life if he colluded

President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said this week that, if anyone on Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election, they should “go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

“I think if anybody, and I’ve said this, if Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Rick Gates or Carter Page, or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that’s inappropriate – through collusion, coordination or cooperation – I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives,” Lewandowski said at George Washington University on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner.

“It’s very simple. Our election process is too serious, our democracy is too important to allow people to try and try and have influence from the outside for their own gain,” he added.

Lewandowski’s comments came after CNN reported Tuesday that investigators had wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, before and after the 2016 election.

According to the CNN report, the government obtained a warrant to wiretap Manafort in 2014. That warrant expired in 2016, but the FBI obtained a new one that ended in early 2017, during a period when Manafort was in contact with Trump.

Investigators were reportedly concerned that the intelligence included communications that Manafort may have encouraged the Russians to help influence the 2016 election, though two unnamed sources familiar with the matter cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

Manafort has emerged as a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Mueller’s team has taken a series of aggressive actions against Manafort in recent months. In July, for example, the FBI conducted an early-morning raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. home. Mueller has also subpoenaed the former campaign chairman’s personal spokesman and former attorney.

Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination between his campaign and Russian officials, and has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

Lewandowski reportedly defended Trump during his appearance at GWU on Tuesday, saying that, while he was on the real estate mogul’s campaign, he never witnessed anything that would suggest coordination with the Russians.

“Never ever ever ever did I hear him say, utter, insinuate anything to do with Russia,” Lewandowski said, according to the Examiner. “He never instructed me or anybody in my immediate presence to ever be involved with Russia, never mentioned Russia collusion, coordination, cooperation, or anything of that nature ever.”

FBI Raided Paul Manafort’s Home July 26th, 2017

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Washington (CNN) FBI agents raided a home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

The agents seized materials in Manafort’s home as part of the ongoing Russia investigation led by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the source said.
“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told CNN. He declined to provide further details.
The so-called no-knock warrant, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was served at Manafort’s home in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs on July 26, the day after Manafort met with Senate intelligence committee investigators.
The tactic appears unusual for a case that has been under investigation for months and for which Manafort has already turned over hundreds of pages of documents to Senate investigators. The source told CNN the documents seized included financial and tax records and at least some of the information had already been provided to Senate investigators.
Since his appointment in May, Mueller has quietly gathered a team of more than three dozen attorneys, investigators and other staff in a nondescript office in Washington. Officials familiar with the probe describe it as akin to a small US attorney’s office, with FBI agents and prosecutors assigned to separate groups looking into various aspects of the investigation.
These include groups of investigators and lawyers focused separately on Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, as well as the investigations focused on Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a US official briefed on the investigation has told CNN.
So far, Trump’s campaign has turned over approximately 20,000 pages to the Senate judiciary committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the election, while Manafort turned over approximately 400 pages and Donald Trump Jr. turned over about 250 pages.
Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled a dossier at the center of the federal Russia probe, has not yet turned over any documents, according to the committee’s spokesperson, though a source told CNN the firm plans to provide the committee with “thousands” of pages of documents Wednesday.
The spokesperson declined to provide details about the specific contents of the documents.

The Trump Family: Are They Guilty Of Treason And Tax Evasion/Fraud?

 

This question unfortunately could be directed at the Clinton family or even the Bush family but today I am asking this question about the President and his family. I am not a fan of any of these families as they have all proven to be power-hungry, money hungry habitual liars. I believe that most Americans knew that Hillary Clinton has had real trouble in her life with finding out a way to not lie when she opens her mouth and I believe that this is one of the many reasons that people like myself could not vote for her last November. By what I hear from other folks they said that they were willing to give Donald Trump a chance to see if he would tell the truth on domestic and foreign agendas. I know that a lot of us are now very unhappy with his ability to ever tell the truth. Part of the Presidents issues are his King Kong size ego, and his peanut size brain. During the campaign he often spoke of how intelligent he was, how he knew more that most everyone on every thing, like how he knew more than the Generals concerning the Middle-East. Now that he has been in Office for about six months he has proven to the whole world that he is pretty much nothing but an idiot, and an ass. The whole world has learned that there is no way they can trust anything that he says. Another issue with our President is his constant lying and the fact that he tells so many lies each day that he can’t remember one line of BS he has told from one morning till the afternoon. Yet this article today isn’t about his massive ignorance of almost every issue on the planet, it is about if he and his family have committed treason concerning Russia and if he is guilty of massive tax evasion and tax fraud.

 

 

These are not accusations, they are questions, very important questions that ‘We The People’ absolutely need to know the whole truth about very, very soon. To me it appears there is no doubt about President Trump and several in his inner circle have lied many times about their connections with the Russian government which in Russia means President Putin. They have tried to hide many meetings with Russian officials, lying to the Congress and the American people about those meeting and connections. There are reasons that these people have collective memory loss when it concerns Russia. Even our Attorney General who is supposed to be Americas top ‘law enforcement’ officer lied to Congress and the people more than once on this issue. Folks, do you really think that all of these folks have Dementia? I don’t, there are reasons that these people are lying to us. Just like Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is such a hardliner about putting as many poor people as possible in prisons for as long as possible, is there another reason he is like this? Turns out that Mr. Sessions has a lot of stock in the two largest ‘Prison for Profit” companies in the Country. When Mr. Sessions was confirmed to be the new AG his own personal fortune in these two stocks skyrocketed. And to think, he is the ‘top Cop’ in our Country. As you most likely noticed I said putting poor people in jail, if he was really doing his job he would have to arrest the President and several of his personal staff then resign at once and put himself in one of his own prisons. I know that I am like most folks in that I am sick and tired of these crooked habitual lying “Leaders.”

 

In the years before Mr. Trump officially announced that he was going to run for President again and even early in the campaign he used to openly brag about all of his investments in Russia and business deals he had with well-connected Russians here in the States. Remember, he used to even brag on national television how he had met President Putin before but once elected denied that he ever said that. Maybe if he could learn to be truthful all of the time then maybe his peanut brain could at least remember events correctly then, but I personally doubt it. During these past couple of days there is news coming out from the New York Times about a meeting last June at the New York Trump Tower where Donald Trump Jr., Son-in-law Jarred Kushner, and then Campaign Manager Paul Manafort had an arranged meeting with a Russian lawyer who is well-connected to the Russian government. This meeting seemed to be ‘forgotten’ by all of the Trump ‘team’ that attended, what a coincidence. Paul Manafort is extremely well-connected to the deposed President of UKraine whom was nothing but a Putin proxy who now lives in Moscow. Since Mr. Manafort was forced to step down from being Trumps Campaign Manager he has since registered as a ‘Foreign Agent going all the way back to 2012’ because of his Russian ties just like their former Nation Security Director Michael Flynn had to step down because of lies about his financial ties with the Russian government and with the Dictator Erdogan of Turkey, Flynn has also now registered as a foreign agent.

 

Last fall Jared Kushner met with the Chief Executive of the Russian State owned (VNB) in Moscow. This Bank has been sanctioned by the U.S. and NATO and once this is done we are not supposed to inner act with Officials of sanctioned banks. O, also, Mr. Kushner forgot to mention this meeting too. To me I have an issue concerning Donald Trumps tax returns. With all of these secret meetings with Russian Officials that all these folks lied about under oath it is getting more difficult to believe any thing except this President and his family are simply doing what they have always done they are putting “the Trump Bank Accounts first”, not the American people. Mr. Trump used to brag about his Florida Golf Club being worth one hundred million dollars to his guests yet on his taxes he valued it as being worth one million dollars. Just to be a member there the cost was one hundred thousand dollars per year, when he became President he upped the fee to two hundred thousand per year. If an average citizen of this Country pulled something like that on our taxes we would quickly be convicted of tax evasion and thrown into a Federal Prison for the rest of our lives. I do believe that the Congress and the Senate should do what ever they have to do to make all of the Trump advisers and the President himself required to immediately be forced to release their tax returns for the past ten years. ‘We The People’ have the absolute right to know who our Leaders serve and to know if they are the criminals they appear to be. It does appear that Mr. Trumps slogan should not have been “putting America first” as it should have been “putting the Trump family first, and only.”

 

 

The ever-changing Russia stories of the two Donald Trumps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

The ever-changing Russia stories of the two Donald Trumps

Story highlights

  • With each passing week, the story seems to change when it comes to Trump and Russia
  • And, in almost every instance, what we find is more smoke around those connections

Washington (CNN) When it comes to Russia, Donald Trump — and his son — can’t get their stories straight.

Consider the last day and a half.
On Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. said that a 2016 meeting between himself and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin was primarily about “adoptions.” That came in response to a New York Times piece detailing the meeting between Trump, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
On Sunday, when the Times reported a second piece alleging that Trump Jr. had met with Veselnitskaya after receiving a promise that she possessed “damaging information” about Hillary Clinton, he changed his story.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in a statement. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Then there was this odd reversal from the President himself on another matter involving Russia.
On Sunday at 7:50 a.m., President Trump tweeted: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”
On Sunday at 8:45 p.m., President Trump tweeted: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can,& did!”
So. That’s a lot to process.
As of Monday morning, here’s what we know (I think):
1. At the behest of a friend he made from the Miss Universe pageant, which was held in Russia in 2013, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer who promised him dirt on Clinton. He has said he didn’t know the name of the person prior to the meeting, but we now know that person was Veselnitskaya. He said he didn’t tell Manafort or Kushner anything about the meeting — other than to ask them to come.
2. Trump Jr. initially said the meeting was primarily about adoption when initially confronted about it by the Times on Saturday. He did not mention that it had anything to do with the 2016 election despite the fact that Veselnitskaya’s promise of negative information appears to have been the impetus for the meeting in the first place.
3. At the much-anticipated meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin last Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that Trump confronted Putin about meddling in the election. Putin denied it. Reports differ about whether Trump accepted that denial or not (Russia says he did, the White House says he didn’t).
4. The two sides agreed to put the Russian campaign meddling (or not) in the past — by, in part, discussing the possibility of creating an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to make election hacking a thing of the past. After a huge amount of blowback to that proposal Sunday — Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, tweeted: “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit'” — Trump changed his tune, insisting that he didn’t really think the “cyber security unit” would happen anyway.
Got all that?
The point here is simple: With each passing week, the story seems to change when it comes to Trump and Russia. And, in almost every instance, what we find is more smoke around those connections. We don’t have fire yet — as Trump like to remind people (and he’s right). But, man oh man, the smoke just keeps getting thicker.
Why, even if he didn’t know exactly who he was meeting with, did Don Jr. take the meeting — with the promise that he would get dirt on Hillary Clinton? (Remember that Trump Jr. knew this was someone who was a friend of a friend he had made in Russia — meaning that it doesn’t take much of a logical leap to think this person he was meeting with might be Russian.)
And does President Trump think it’s a good idea to form a cybersecurity task force with Russia? Or not? If he does support it, why did he walk away from it — or hedge on it — 12 hours after he seemed to suggest it was the successful result of his confrontation with Putin?
Like almost everything with Trump and Russia, there are more questions than answers. And, if past is prologue, Trump and his senior advisers won’t answer any of them.

CIA: Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Paul Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. CreditWin McNamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.

The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.

John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., testified Tuesday about a tense period last year when he came to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was trying to steer the outcome of the election. He said he saw intelligence suggesting that Russia wanted to use Trump campaign officials, wittingly or not, to help in that effort. He spoke vaguely about contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, without giving names, saying they “raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

Whether the Russians worked directly with any Trump advisers is one of the central questions that federal investigators, now led by Robert S. Mueller III, the newly appointed special counsel, are seeking to answer. President Trump, for his part, has dismissed talk of Russian interference in the election as “fake news,” insisting there was no contact between his campaign and Russian officials.

“If there ever was any effort by Russians to influence me, I was unaware, and they would have failed,” Mr. Manafort said in a statement. “I did not collude with the Russians to influence the elections.”

The White House, F.B.I. and C.I.A. declined to comment. Mr. Flynn’s lawyer did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The current and former officials agreed to discuss the intelligence only on the condition of anonymity because much of it remains highly classified, and they could be prosecuted for disclosing it.

Last week, CNN reported about intercepted phone calls during which Russian officials were bragging about ties to Mr. Flynn and discussing ways to wield influence over him.

In his congressional testimony, Mr. Brennan discussed the broad outlines of the intelligence, and his disclosures backed up the accounts of the information provided by the current and former officials.

“I was convinced in the summer that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive,” Mr. Brennan said. Still, he said, even at the end of the Obama administration he had “unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf again either in a witting or unwitting fashion.”

Mr. Brennan’s testimony offered the fullest public account to date of how American intelligence agencies first came to fear that Mr. Trump’s campaign might be aiding Russia’s attack on the election.

By early summer, American intelligence officials already were fairly certain that it was Russian hackers who had stolen tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That in itself was not viewed as particularly extraordinary by the Americans — foreign spies had hacked previous campaigns, and the United States does the same in elections around the world, officials said. The view on the inside was that collecting information, even through hacking, is what spies do.

But the concerns began to grow when intelligence began trickling in about Russian officials weighing whether they should release stolen emails and other information to shape American opinion — to, in essence, weaponize the materials stolen by hackers.

An unclassified report by American intelligence agencies released in January stated that Mr. Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”

Before taking the helm of the Trump campaign last May, Mr. Manafort worked for more than a decade for Russian-leaning political organizations and people in Ukraine, including Mr. Yanukovych, the former president. Mr. Yanukovych was a close ally of Mr. Putin.

Mr. Manafort’s links to Ukraine led to his departure from the Trump campaign in August, after his name surfaced in secret ledgers showing millions in undisclosed payments from Mr. Yanukovych’s political party.

Russia views Ukraine as a buffer against the eastward expansion of NATO, and has supported separatists in their years long fight against the struggling democratic government in Kiev.

Mr. Flynn’s ties to Russian officials stretch back to his time at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he led from 2012 to 2014. There, he began pressing for the United States to cultivate Russia as an ally in the fight against Islamist militants, and even spent a day in Moscow at the headquarters of the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence service, in 2013.

He continued to insist that Russia could be an ally even after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea the following year, and Obama administration officials have said that contributed to their decision to push him out of the D.I.A.

But in private life, Mr. Flynn cultivated even closer ties to Russia. In 2015, he earned more than $65,000 from companies linked to Russia, including a cargo airline implicated in a bribery scheme involving Russian officials at the United Nations, and an American branch of a cybersecurity firm believed to have ties to Russia’s intelligence services.

The biggest payment, though, came from RT, the Kremlin-financed news network. It paid Mr. Flynn $45,000 to give a speech in Moscow, where he also attended the network’s lavish anniversary dinner. There, he was photographed sitting next to Mr. Putin.

A senior lawmaker said on Monday that Mr. Flynn misled Pentagon investigators about how he was paid for the Moscow trip. He also failed to disclose the source of that income on a security form he was required to complete before joining the White House, according to congressional investigators.

American officials have also said there were multiple telephone calls between Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on Dec. 29, beginning shortly after Mr. Kislyak was summoned to the State Department and informed that, in retaliation for Russian election meddling, the United States was expelling 35 people suspected of being Russian intelligence operatives and imposing other sanctions.

American intelligence agencies routinely tap the phones of Russian diplomats, and transcripts of the calls showed that Mr. Flynn urged the Russians not to respond, saying relations would improve once Mr. Trump was in office, officials have said.

But after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the calls, Mr. Flynn was fired as national security adviser after a tumultuous 25 days in office.