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Report: CIA set up task-force in 2016 to investigate possible Russian funding of Trump's campaign

Natasha Bertrand
Donald Trump

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
A US counterintelligence task force was established by the CIA in 2016 to investigate possible Russian funding of President-elect Donald Trump's presidential campaign, the BBC reported on Friday.

The task force included the FBI, the Treasury and Justice Departments, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Security Agency (NSA).

It was set up after the director of the CIA, John Brennan, received a recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into Trump's campaign coffers, the BBC's Paul Wood reported. The recording was apparently passed to the CIA by the intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States.

On October 15, the task force was reportedly granted a warrant by a judge in the FISA court — named after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — tintercept the electronic records from two Russian banks that may have been implicated in the money transfer, a senior intelligence official told the BBC. Trump was not named in the warrant, but three of his associates were the subject of the inquiry.

All three associates contacted, but not named, by the BBC, denied the allegations. The current status of the investigation is unclear.

The BBC report comes amid claims, contained in a dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele, of Trump's extensive ties to Russia.

Steele, who was the head of the British intelligence agency MI6's Moscow desk and is known for his "knowledge of the intricate web" of Kremlin-tied companies and associates, wrote the dossier between July and December of 2016 as part of an opposition research project funded by anti-Trump Republicans. Democrats later took over funding for the project.

A two-page summary of Steele's memos was attached to the intelligence community's classified report on Russia's meddling in the US election, which was presented to Trump, President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden earlier this month. The nation's top lawmakers on intelligence matters, known as the "gang of eight," were also briefed.

FBI Director James Comey discussed the dossier with Trump verbally after presenting the president-elect with the report on Russian meddling, intelligence sources told CNN and NBC last week.

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, released a statement last Wednesday reiterating that, while the intelligence community had "not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, "part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."

The dossier has apparently been circulating among journalists and top lawmakers since early last year. Sen. John McCain of Arizona obtained a copy that he handed over to the FBI before the election. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada obtained an early copy of the dossier as well.

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