FBI warned Trump that Russia would try to spy on his campaign
Top FBI officials told Donald Trump that Russia and other global adversaries would likely try to spy on and even infiltrate his campaign, a new report said.
The ominous warning — which was also given to Hillary Clinton — came about a week after Trump won the Republican nomination in July 2016.
Both candidates were urged to tell the feds about any suspicious outreach to their campaigns, the officials said.
But Team Trump subsequently never gave the bureau a heads up despite multiple contacts with Russians and those acting on the country’s behalf in the months that followed.
The warning came during a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, sources told the network.
The Clinton campaign didn’t respond to the network’s request for comment.
The briefings were led by counterintelligence specialists from the FBI, the sources said, and began about the time that the candidates began receiving classified intelligence, the sources said, which meant foreign spies would be more likely to target them.
Trump was “briefed and warned” about potential espionage threats from Russia, two former law enforcement officials familiar with the briefings told NBC News.
The White House downplayed the significance of the report.
“That the Republican and Democrat nominee for President received a standardized briefing on counter-intelligence is hardly a news story,” said Raj Shah, an administration spokesman.
“That NBC News hears about the contents of this classified conversation due to an inappropriate leak is a news story.”
But the revelation that Team Trump was warned about spying threats from Russia and other adversaries had not been previously reported.
Trump would have been told, “If you see these kinds of contacts, please let us know about them so we can keep you updated on the threat picture,” Frank Montoya, a former FBI counterintelligence agent and supervisor who retired in 2016, told NBC.
By the time the feds warning came in late July or August, at least seven Trump campaign officials had been in contact with Russians or people linked to Russia, public reports, and there is no public evidence that the campaign reported any of those contacts to the bureau.
After the FBI warning, first Donald Trump Jr., exchanged Twitter messages in September with WikiLeaks, which the intelligence community accused in October of acting as an agent in Russia’s efforts to meddle in the election.
That same month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in his Senate office.
“If I give you a defensive briefing and the illicit behavior continues, I’m not going to just scratch my head over that, especially if I see continued interference,” Montoya said.
“If we’re telling these guys stuff and they are not acting on it, then we’re going to keep that as evidence.”
There were other contacts as well.
In May 2016, Trump Jr. met with a Russian central banker who had ties to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin at a National Rifle Association dinner.
Trump was told that same month by campaign aide George Papadopoulos that he had connections with people who could facilitate a meeting between the candidate and Putin, according to a court filing.
In June 2016, Trump Jr. hosted a meeting in Trump Tower with a shady Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who promised to dish dirt on Clinton. Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner also sat in.
That July, Manafort offered a private briefing on the Trump campaign to a Russian oligarch tied to Putin.
After Trump took office, The New York Times reported that the FBI warned Trump communications director Hope Hicks about what they considered suspicious emails from Russians sent to her.
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