Russia says it has been in touch with Donald Trump’s entourage during the campaign

I’m not celebrating.
I’m not celebrating.
Image: AP/Sergei Karpukhin
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A longtime Russian diplomat claims Moscow was in regular contact with Donald Trump’s team during the presidential campaign.

Trump had repeatedly denied any contact with Russia, after his ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin were questioned during the campaign.

“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov said in an interview with state news agency Interfax. (Obviously!)

“Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions,” Rybakov continued. “I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”

The question: Is this a true confession or classic Russian trolling?

Throughout the presidential race, Trump spoke highly of Putin. According to US intelligence agencies, Russia hacked the emails of Democratic officials in an effort to influence the election. During the campaign, Wikileaks shared those e-mails with the public, spurring in-fighting among Democrats and negative coverage of Hillary Clinton.

But an FBI investigation reportedly did not turn up any direct connection between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign. They may want to revisit that one.

Controversially, The FBI declined to release details of its on-going investigation into Trump’s Russia connection during the campaign, even as director James Comey shared updates of their inquiries into Clinton’s private email server with Congress.

Putin, who has set his authoritarian regime up as a global rival to US power, sent Trump a congratulatory telegram shortly after the outcome of the election was clear.