In 2015, U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring the communications of Russian agents overheard them talking "about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers.”
That was before Donald J. Trump's presidential campaign began.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “In light of the release of emails Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, investigators are going back to” early reports of chatter between Russians in the U.S. and members of Trump's inner circle, to see if they can better understand the intercepted conversations.
From the WSJ report:
U.S. intelligence agencies starting in the spring of 2015 detected conversations in which Russian government officials discussed associates of Donald Trump, several months before he declared his candidacy for president, according to current and former U.S. officials.
In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers, these people said.
It isn’t clear which Trump associates or advisers the Russians were referring to, or whether they had any connection to his presidential aspirations.
The reports were gathered by intelligence agencies that routinely monitor Russian espionage against the U.S. Such efforts can include monitoring phone calls and emails as well as information from informants. The efforts weren’t aimed at Mr. Trump or his associates, these people said.
The U.S. intelligence agencies weren’t sure what to make of the vague and inconclusive information, given that Mr. Trump had done business in Russia and was a global celebrity well-known to prominent people there. The names of Americans do sometimes show up in conversations involving Russian officials that are overheard by U.S. intelligence.
The WSJ contacted a lawyer for Trump. He didn’t return a call seeking comment on the overheard 2015 conversations.