The White House has denied a report that U.S. intelligence intercepted conversations between Russian government officials discussing having potentially “derogatory” information about Donald Trump and some of his campaign associates.
Citing unnamed former intelligence officials, CNN reported Tuesday the apparent conversations focused on finances and whether the Russians had some leverage against Trump’s top aides.
According to CNN, the source told the news outlet the intercepted communications suggested the Russians appeared to have thought “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.”
However, the same source cautioned the conversation “could have been exaggerated or even made up,” CNN reported. The sources did not name any of Trump’s aides who were potentially discussed.
“The Russians could be overstating their belief to influence,” CNN quoted a source as saying.
A White House spokesperson denied CNN’s report calling it “yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the president.”
“The reality is, a review of the president’s income from the last 10 years showed he had virtually no financial ties at all,” the spokesperson told CNN. “There appears to be no limit to which the president’s political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material. All this does is play into the hands of our adversaries and put our country at risk.”
Early Tuesday, Trump tweeted “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”
CNN’s report comes on the same day that Trump’s communications director Michael Dubke quit his post at the White House. Dubke’s departure comes as aides say Trump has grown increasingly frustrated by allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and revelations of possible ties between his campaign and Moscow.
Dubke wrote in a statement that it had been an honour to serve Trump and “my distinct pleasure to work side-by-side, day-by-day with the staff of the communications and press departments.”
While overseas, Trump’s longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, joined a still-forming legal team to help the president shoulder the intensifying investigations into Russian interference in the election and his associates’ potential involvement.
Last week, reports emerged Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner allegedly discussed setting up a secret communications channel with the Russian government to facilitate sensitive discussions about the conflict in Syria shortly after the election.
–With files from the Associated Press