Former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Flynn case rattles president

DONALD Trump's campaign team repeatedly spoke with Russian intelligence officials in the lead-up to the election, it has been revealed.

Close associates of the Republican candidate as well as members of his team were in contact with the Russians on several occasions, according to four current and former US officials.

Three of the whistleblowers told the New York Times that law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted calls and obtained phone records between Russia and Mr Trump's advisers at the same time they found evidence Russia was trying to hack the election.

The agencies tried to find out whether the campaign was colluding with the Russians on hacking the Democratic National Committee or any other efforts to influence the election.

The explosive claims come with the Trump administration struggling to answer questions about the resignation of his National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn.

Gen Flynn stepped down on Tuesday after just three weeks in the pivotal role as the liaison between Mr Trump and America's intelligence agencies.

His position had grown increasingly untenable amid accusations he had lied about having discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador to the United States.

According to a Washington Post report hours before Gen Flynn resigned, the Justice Department told the White House about Gen Flynn's dishonesty in January and warned he was "potentially vulnerable to blackmail” by Russia.

But Gen Flynn was allowed to remain in his job for weeks more - and Mr Trump's staff is struggling to explain why.

In an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway claimed Gen Flynn's lie to Vice President Mike Pence - who then went on television and insisted he (Flynn) had not discussed sanctions with the envoy - was the key factor.

Later, press secretary Sean Spicer said Mr Trump's trust in Gen Flynn had "eroded” over the weeks following the Justice Department warning.

"We've been evaluating this issue with respect to Gen Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks trying to ascertain the truth,” he said.


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