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COMING UP:Share Opener Variant 1



>> Michael Flynn, and other advisors to Donald Trump's presidential campaign were in touch with Kremlin linked individuals at least 18 times last year, far more than previously disclosed by the White House. Three current and former government officials telling Reuters that contacts occurring by telephone and email between April and November of 2016.
A time when US Intelligence Services have concluded Russia was trying to interfere with the presidential election. Reporter Ned Parker has the story.>> After learning about these calls and contacts, Reuters spoke with several advisors to previous presidential campaigns, all of whom said, such a high number of calls and contacts, that number and volume is unusual.
>> Those includes six phone calls to Trump advisors, including Flynn by Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and 12 other calls or emails by individuals with links to the Kremlin.>> After the election, Flynn's contacts with Kislyak intensified. They were discussing how to create a back channel between then President Elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to bypass the US National Security bureaucracy.
The feeling was that the Russians were concerned that the US National Security bureaucracy would, perhaps, poison the efforts between the incoming Trump administration and Trump aides and Russia to improve the fraught US-Russia relationship. The thinking was having a back channel would be a way to avoid what the Russians saw as a hostile bureaucracy.
>> The sources said there was no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia, nor did they indicate whether Trump himself had played any role in the overtures. But they show that contacts happened more often than Trump and his advisors have admitted. The revelation comes a week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, just as the Bureau was investigating the Trump campaign's links to Russia.
And as an associate of Comey's tells Reuters, the President asked Comey to shut down the Bureau's investigation of Flynn, forced to resign as National Security Advisor, over previously disclosed contacts with Russia. The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the contacts.