In the latest explosive development in the ongoing Russia scandal, The New York Times is reporting that top Russian officials discussed ways to use Donald Trump’s associates to influence him during the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to the report, the information was picked up by U.S. spies last summer.
More from the New York Times:
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.
As the New York Times also noted, it hasn’t yet been confirmed whether the Russian officials were actually successful in influencing either Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn – two of their targets.
Still, Trump’s pro-Russia policies and favorable talk toward Vladimir Putin during the campaign and into his presidency does show that, if the Russians were trying to influence then-candidate Trump and his associates, they were successful in doing so.
The report is also evidence that the Russians were well aware that Trump is easily influenced by those around him and has no core convictions. He will simply listen to the last person he spoke to and act accordingly, even if he eventually changes his positions three more times in the matter of a single day.
It has already been determined that the Russians influenced the presidential election and helped Trump win the presidency by a slim margin. But now it’s a possibility that they have direct influence over this president and those who advise him.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.