Questions have been raised once again regarding the Donald Trump campaign’s association with Russia, after a senior Russian diplomat insisted that his government has contacts within the president-elect’s campaign staff.
Speaking to Russian state-run media outlet Interfax News, the country’s foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told a journalist, “we know most of the people from [Trump’s] entourage” and that “there were contacts.”
According to Bloomberg, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went further to describe, via email, actual talks that took place on a “sufficient, responsible level” between the Trump campaign and Russian embassy officials. Zakharova also mentioned that embassy staff attempted to arrange a meeting with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign team, although the proposal was declined.
Responding to the Russian foreign ministry, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks flatly denied the allegations absolutely. “The campaign had no contact with Russian officials,” she wrote.
This has been the position of the Trump campaign since speculation first emerged surrounding business arrangements in Russia and political backing. The FBI even conducted a number of investigations, but discovered little about Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.
The possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct influence on the election has remained a hovering controversy ever since the Obama administration accused Russian hackers of infiltrating the Democratic National Committee’s servers and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s inbox. Material from both hacks was published by WikiLeaks and a number of the subsequent disclosures proved damaging and embarrassing, particularly to the DNC.
Putin, of course, denied Moscow’s involvement in the cyberattacks but has been vocally complementary and supportive of Donald Trump, describing him as “colorful and talented.” Putin was also amongst the first world leaders to congratulate the future president on his election victory, hailing a new era of diplomacy between the U.S and Russia.