The New York Times reports: During the 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump’s second campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had regular communications with his longtime associate — a former Russian military translator in Kiev who has been investigated in Ukraine on suspicion of being a Russian intelligence agent.
At the Republican National Convention in July, J. D. Gordon, a former Pentagon official on Mr. Trump’s national security team, met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at a time when Mr. Gordon was helping keep hawkish language on Russia’s conflict with Ukraine out of the party’s platform.
And Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer and now a special representative for international negotiations at the White House, met last summer with Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and an ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.
In a Washington atmosphere supercharged by the finding of the intelligence agencies that Mr. Putin tried to steer the election to Mr. Trump, as well as continuing F.B.I. and congressional investigations, a growing list of Russian contacts with Mr. Trump’s associates is getting intense and skeptical scrutiny.
Democrats see suspicious connections and inaccurate denials as part of a pattern that belies Mr. Trump’s adamant insistence that he and his associates “have nothing to do with Russia.” The president’s supporters say innocuous encounters, routine for any incoming presidential team, are being treated for political reasons as somehow subversive.
Mr. Trump denounced the furor over Russian connections on Thursday as a “total witch hunt” — but it may not have helped his case that the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, echoed his words on Friday, saying, “This all looks like a witch hunt.” [Continue reading…]