Russian government officials reportedly talked about having possibly “derogatory” information about President Trump and some of his top aides during the 2016 presidential race.
The officials’ discussions were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, CNN reported Tuesday, citing two former intelligence officials and a congressional source.
A source told CNN the information was related to finances. Russians appeared to think “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information,” the source said.
Still, sources said the Russians’ claims “could have been exaggerated or even made up.”
Sources declined to say specifically which aides were being discussed.
“The Russians could be overstating their belief to influence,” said one of the sources.
A White House spokesman denied the reports.
“This is yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the President,” a White House spokesman told CNN.
“The reality is, a review of the President’s income from the last ten years showed he had virtually no financial ties at all. There appears to be no limit to which the President’s political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material.”
The spokesman said the story plays “into the hands of our adversaries and put our country at risk.”
On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that Russian officials “must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”
Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2017
Earlier this month, the Justice Department named a special counsel to investigate the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.