The eighteen undisclosed contacts, which include calls and emails, are part of the record being reviewed by the FBI and congressional investigators.
The officials who described the contacts to Reuters said they had “seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far.”
The White House, in January, denied having any contact with Russian officials during the Trump campaign, and have since confirmed four meetings between Sergei Kislyak and members of the Trump team.
A full account:
The discussions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials reportedly highlighted sanctions against Moscow, cooperation in fighting the Islamic State in Syria, and containment in China.
A political campaign having some contact with foreign officials is not considered exceptional. But Richard Armitage, a Republican and former deputy secretary of state, said the volume of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials is “rare”:
“It’s rare to have that many phone calls to foreign officials, especially to a country we consider an adversary or a hostile power,” said Armitage to Reuters.
Kislyak at the center (again)
Six of the eighteen previously-undisclosed calls involved Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Kislyak regularly communicated with former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned following his failure to properly characterize conversations he had with Kislyak in December.
The remaining 12 communications involved calls, emails and text discussions with Russian officials and Trump campaign advisors.
Special Counsel appointed:
The report comes the day after the Department of Justice appointed Robert Mueller, former FBI Director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation.
“It is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” said deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination,” he added.