In Depth

Trump and Russia: Who are the people in the spotlight?

Investigations into alleged links between the US President and Moscow continue to dog the White House

In another twist in the already lengthy tale of the alleged ties between Donald Trump's administration and Vladimir Putin and Russia, former acting attorney general Sally Yates has revealed she warned the White House in January about concerns over then national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Yates told the Senate judiciary subcommittee she had been concerned that he "could be blackmailed by the Russians"

She added: "Logic would tell you that you don't want the national security adviser to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him."

Flynn was forced to resign after just 24 days in the role after he misled colleagues over meetings with the Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Yates's testimony was part of the Senate intelligence committee's investigation into alleged links between the Washington administration and Russia, allegations Trump has been unable to shake off in the first 100 days of his presidency.

Her comments "represented the latest incremental step toward a broader understanding of why so many links have surfaced between Trump world and Russia", says CNN

"Alone, her appearance didn't prove much. But collectively with the other multiple channels of investigation, it could add up to more."

Investigations are underway in both the committee and the FBI.

The Senate is scrutinising contacts between Trump's presidential campaign and Moscow, while the Bureau is focusing on a CIA report that Russia intervened to help Trump win.

A number of countries have provided the US with "information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials - and others close to Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin - and associates of President Trump", the New York Times says.

The White House has downplayed the investigations, saying they are an invention of Democrats, while Trump has repeatedly dismissed any collusion between himself and Moscow as "fake news."

So who are the main players in the spotlight?

Michael Flynn

Trump's initial pick for national security adviser resigned after a Washington Post report revealed he had discussed the potential lifting of sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

Flynn repeatedly denied all dealings with Moscow, officials but later admitted he had "inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador".

"We still don't know who else in the White House knew that Flynn wasn't telling the truth. Or, who in the White House knew that Flynn was talking about lifting sanctions on Russia all along?" says the Washington Post

Paul Manafort

Trump's campaign chairman was also forced to quit after he was "accused of accepting millions of dollars in cash for representing Russian interests in Ukraine and US, including dealings with an oligarch with close ties to President Putin", says the BBC

It was reported that in 2005, Manafort sent Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska an ambitious proposal to promote the interests of "the Putin government" and undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.

"Like Flynn, Manafort, a political operative with more than 40 years' experience, was supposed to marshal some of the chaos and controversy around Mr Trump, but ended up falling prey to it," says the BBC.

Jared Kushner

Trump's son-in-law, the husband of his elder daughter Ivanka Trump, has been thrown into the spotlight after it was revealed he met with executives of the Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), which is on a US list of sanctioned organisations following Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

According to Reuters, Kushner met chairman Sergei Gorkov, a graduate of Russia's FSB internal security agency, who was "appointed head of VEB in early 2016 by Russian President Vladimir Putin".

Trump's son-in-law has previously disclosed he was also present at a meeting between Flynn and Kislyak, but a source close to the investigations told CNN that "neither of Kushner's meetings were about sanctions", and were instead an "effort to engage with Russia".

Kushner has said he will voluntarily appear at the Senate hearings.

Jeff Sessions

Trump's attorney general faces scrutiny after the Washington Post revealed he had twice met Kislyak during the election campaign despite denying any such meetings at his confirmation hearing in the Senate.

"The details of the meetings were not clear," says the New York Times, "but the contact appeared to contradict testimony Mr Sessions provided Congress during his confirmation hearing in January when he said he 'did not have communications with the Russians'."

Sessions says his meetings with the Russian ambassador were related to his role as a member of the Senate armed services committee and had nothing to do with the election campaign.

Carter Page

Trump's main foreign policy adviser "met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013 and provided him documents about the energy industry, according to court documents from a 2015 prosecution alleging a Cold War-style spy ring in New York", says Capitol Hill Blue.

Page, who is not accused of wrongdoing, said in a statement that he shared "basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents."

However, says the Washington Post, in the summer of 2016, Page "stunned a gathering of high-powered Washington foreign policy experts meeting with the visiting prime minister of India" by "hailing Vladimir Putin as stronger and more reliable than President [Barack] Obama and touting the positive effect that a Trump presidency would have on US-Russia relations".

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