The Russian government maintained contacts with members of Donald J. Trump’s “immediate entourage” during the American presidential campaign, one of Russia’s top diplomats said Thursday. “There were contacts,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “We continue to do this and have been doing this work during the election campaign,” he said. Mr. Ryabkov said officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry were familiar with many of the people he described as Mr. Trump’s entourage. “I cannot say that all, but a number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives,” Mr. Ryabkov said. Later, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said Mr. Ryabkov had been referring to American politicians and supporters of Mr. Trump, not members of his campaign staff. The contacts were carried out through the Russian ambassador in Washington, who reached out to the senators and other political allies to get a better sense of Mr. Trump’s positions on various issues involving Russia.
… After embarrassing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and other institutions and prominent individuals were released by WikiLeaks, the Obama administration said in October that Russia had ordered the hacking — an assertion the Russians denied. Beyond that, the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation in August to investigate whether Russia might be trying to manipulate the vote.
But law enforcement officials said that their investigations found no direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government in the hacking of the Democrats’ computers. They also found no conclusive evidence of financial connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russian financial institutions.
Still, some advisers to Mr. Trump have had contact with the Russian government. Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a retired intelligence officer and an adviser to Trump on security issues, was seated next to Mr. Putin during an anniversary dinner in Moscow for the English-language satellite television network, RT, in December 2015. And Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, had previously been a paid consultant to former President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine, a Kremlin ally before he was ousted in a civic uprising.