U.S. counterintelligence officials are sifting through intercepted communications and financial data as part of a wider look at possible ties between the Russian government and associates of President-elect Donald Trump, officials said. But while it has been clear for months that a broad investigation is underway, what remains murky — even to lawmakers receiving closed briefings — is its scope and target. It is unclear if the intercepts being examined have any connection to the Trump campaign. But the investigation adds to the uncertainty surrounding Trump’s relationship with Russia even as he is sworn in as president. U.S. intelligence agencies have already concluded that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump win. FBI Director James B. Comey has been chastised by Democratic lawmakers for refusing to even acknowledge that it was investigating alleged links between Trump or his associates and the Kremlin. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been under FBI scrutiny for some time, including for allegations of illegal financial dealings in Ukraine, current and former U.S. officials said. Manafort has done business in Russia and Ukraine.
The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, CIA and the National Security Agency, which intercepts phone calls, emails and other electronic communications of foreigners overseas, are also involved in the probe, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing matter.
In September, The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies were investigating a broad, covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the 2016 election. The BBC last week and McClatchy this week reported that six U.S. government agencies were involved in a probe of potential Russian interference in the campaign, to include possible covert funneling of money by the Kremlin to help Trump win. The New York Times on Thursday reported that the U.S. authorities were scrutinizing intercepted communications and financial data as part of a wider probe of possible links between Trump associates, including Manafort, and Russia.