Russian Interference

A Russian billionaire paid former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort millions of dollars to boost the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Associated Press reports. The new allegations arise months after Manafort resigned from the campaign amid concerns over his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Could the U.S. Justice Department prosecute reporters for publishing stories based on classified material? That once-tangential question briefly took center stage during Monday's House Intelligence Committee hearing.

As several Republican lawmakers stressed the possible criminality of leaking to the press about the activities of President Trump's advisers and associates, South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy went a step further, asking, "Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?"

FBI Director James Comey demurred.

FBI Director James Comey lit the fuse Monday on a political time bomb and no one — including him — knows how long it will take to burn or what kind of damage it may cause when it goes off.

Comey confirmed to members of Congress that his investigators are looking into possible collusion between the campaign that elected President Trump and the Russian government. In fact, he said, the FBI has been doing so since last July.

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

The NPR Two-Way blog will provide live coverage of the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearing on the investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The live blog will include streaming video of the proceedings, with posts featuring highlights, context and analysis from NPR reporters and correspondents.

President Trump has developed a consistent tactic when he's criticized: say that someone else is worse.

In eastern North Carolina, residents who voted for President Trump are loyal to him. But it is not a blind loyalty.

When asked the simple question, "How is the president doing so far?" surprisingly, Trump supporters in Nash County often begin their response with what they don't like.

Eric Wyatt, a 21-year-old engineering student, was typical.

"I support what he's doing thus far," he said, before immediately adding, "I wish he wasn't such a blowhard."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a letter to Congress, said his remarks about not having contact with Russian officials during last year's presidential campaign were "correct," even though he's had to acknowledge that he twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Over the weekend, President Trump accused his predecessor of "wire tapping" communications from Trump Tower in New York, where then-candidate and President-elect Trump lived and worked during the campaign and in the lead-up to the inauguration.

Former President Obama has denied the allegations, as has the former director of national intelligence. A spokesperson for Trump called on Congress to investigate the claim.

Updated 9:17 a.m. ET Sunday with White House press secretary statement

In a string of tweets posted early Saturday morning, President Trump let loose a barrage of accusations at his predecessor. He alleged that former President Obama had his "wires tapped" in Trump Tower before Election Day last year, accusing Obama of "McCarthyism" and being a "bad (or sick) guy."

Trump, who is under significant scrutiny for his administration's contacts with Russia before he took office, offered no evidence to support his claims Saturday morning.

Updated at 4:56 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from any investigations into possible Russian involvement in the 2016 elections.

"Let me be clear: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign," Sessions reiterated during an afternoon news conference in response to reports that he had met twice with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. last year.

"I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in," Sessions said.

A handful of top Republicans are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from a federal investigation into whether Russia interfered with last year's presidential election, as top Democrats call on Sessions to resign.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is defending his meetings with a Russian diplomat The Washington Post reports Sessions met twice with Russia's ambassador during the presidential campaign and did not disclose it.

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Here's what we know and don't know about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his meetings with Russia's ambassador.

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House Democrats are pursuing a strategy to force Republicans to take repeated votes on whether to investigate President Trump's ethics and alleged ties to Russia.

The Democrats failed Tuesday evening as the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee rejected such an investigation. A party-line vote ended a long day of wrangling, barely two hours before the president took the rostrum in the House chamber for his address to Congress.

Despite ordering an "influence campaign" to help Donald Trump in last year's election, the Kremlin is scrambling to respond to a win it didn't expect, New Yorker editor David Remnick and staff writer Evan Osnos tell Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Remnick, who lived and worked in Moscow from 1988 to 1992, and Osnos say Trump's victory has created unintended consequences for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House is admitting that it discussed with the FBI media reports that Trump campaign officials were in contact with Russian intelligence agents and that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to publicly knock down the story.

FBI Director James Comey refused.

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Russian intelligence officials made repeated contact with members of President Trump's campaign staff, according to new reports that cite anonymous U.S. officials. American agencies were concerned about the contacts but haven't seen proof of collusion between the campaign and the Russian security apparatus, the reports say.

Throughout Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and now during his first weeks in office, one country keeps re-emerging in the controversies that swirl around him: Russia.

For all the turbulence, Trump and his team have not addressed the larger and more important questions of how they plan to deal with Vladimir Putin's Russia on a host of critical issues: the war in Syria, the turmoil in Ukraine, the future of NATO.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the Obama administration is attempting to "undermine the legitimacy" of President-elect Donald Trump.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government, at the direction of Putin, hacked several U.S. targets as part of an "influence campaign" to shape the outcome of the election.

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In the closing weeks of 2016, an explosive document was floating around in media and security circles. Reporters tried, and failed, to verify the claims it contained — that Donald Trump colluded with Russia, and the Kremlin held lurid blackmail material as leverage over Trump. Reporting on the document, which was first compiled as opposition research, was rare and carefully vague.

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Let's sort through what we know and don't know about President-elect Trump and Russia. We start with words he resisted saying for months.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

DONALD TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia.

Out of nowhere, a shocking video appeared on a Russian TV news program late one evening in March 1999. A surveillance tape showed a naked, middle-aged man who resembled Russia's top prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, cavorting with two unclothed young women. Neither was his wife.

This has been updated at 10:00 pm ET with Clapper statement

President-elect Donald Trump denounced as "fake news" Wednesday reports that Russia had compromising information about him before the election.

He also acknowledged for the first time that Russia was behind the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee, although he seemed to couch it later in the news conference by saying it "could have been others."

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Updated at 9:24 a.m. ET on Wednesday

Top U.S. intelligence officials have briefed leaders in Washington about an explosive — but unverified — document that alleges collusion between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump, NPR has learned.

The brief, which NPR has seen but not independently verified, was given by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain to FBI Director James Comey on Dec. 9. Details from it have been part of presentations by Comey and other intelligence leaders to Trump, President Obama and key leaders in Congress.

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