Russian officials talked about having potentially "derogatory" information about Donald Trump and some of his chief aides during the 2016 presidential campaign, CNN reported.
The Russian conversations were reportedly intercepted by U.S. intelligence and revealed to the news network by two former intelligence officials and a congressional source. The sources would not reveal which Trump aides were discussed, CNN said.
The Russian information was believed to be financial in nature and the conversations indicated "they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information," according to CNN's sources.
However, the sources warned the claims "could have been exaggerated or even made up" by the Russians as part of a disinformation campaign.
"The Russians could be overstating their belief to influence," said one of the sources.
CNN had previously reported that Russians had bragged about relations with Trump's campaign aides during the campaign, including his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Jon Levine of Mediaite noted: "The news, nevertheless, will likely keep alive suspicions that the Russian government holds a trove of damaging information about President Trump and his top advisers, which could be used to bend U.S. policy towards more pro-Russian interests."
But the White House blasted the new CNN report saying it was false.
"This is yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the president," a Trump spokesman said. "The reality is, a review of the President's income from the last 10 years showed he had virtually no financial ties at all. There appears to be no limit to which the president's political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material. All this does is play into the hands of our adversaries and put our country at risk."
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