Western spy claims Vladimir Putin cultivated Donald Trump for years

Donald Trump's links to Russia were thrown into the spotlight today with an explosive report in Mother Jones on claims the Kremlin has been cultivating the Republican presidential nominee for five years.

Trump's ties to Russia have also been dragged into the FBI email row plaguing his rival Hillary Clinton.

The Democrat's campaign is arguing that FBI Director James Comey is applying a double standard when it comes to the presidential candidates.

On a conference call with reporters today, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook cited a report from CNBC that said Comey opposed releasing information close to election day about Russian interference in the US election.

The AP has not confirmed that report, and the FBI declined to comment.

Mook called the report evidence of a "blatant double standard".

Comey at the weekend disclosed the FBI had newly discovered emails that may be relevant to the Clinton email investigation.

Clinton and her campaign have raged against that timing, saying Comey deviated from Justice Department policy when he alerted Congress to the new discovery so close to Election Day.

Mook called on Comey to "immediately explain this incongruence and apply the same standard to Donald Trump's associates as he has applied to Hillary Clinton's."

In other developments on Trump's links to Russia:

- NBC News reported that the FBI has been conducting a preliminary inquiry into Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort's foreign business connections. Manafort told NBC News "none of it is true ... There's no investigation going on by the FBI that I'm aware of". He said he had never had ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. NBC News reported in August that Manafort was involved business dealings with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

- Slate today reports that Trump had a secure server link to a Russian oligarch's bank which was shut down.

- And a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country told Mother Jones that he provided the FBI with memos, based on interactions with Russian sources, maintaining that the Russian Government tried to "co-opt and assist Trump". The spy said that the FBI requested more information from him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo / AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo / AP

Mother Jones reports that in June, the spy was asked to research Trump's dealings in Russia for an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client. The project's financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.


Mother Jones reported that a memo as part of that work said: "Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance."

The magazine says it maintained that Trump "and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals".

It claimed that Russian intelligence had "compromised" Trump during his visits to Moscow and could "blackmail him". It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Clinton.


However, the New York Times reports that while the FBI investigated a possible Russian role in the campaign, "law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any link between Mr Trump and the Russian Government".

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo / AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo / AP

Also today, the head of MI5 has warned that Russia is adopting an "increasingly aggressive" approach to pursuing its foreign policy goals, including propaganda, spying and cyber-attacks.

The Security Service's director general Andrew Parker said Russia had been a "covert threat" for decades but there were now more methods available for its agents to use.

Parker told the Guardian that Vladimir Putin's Russia "increasingly seems to define itself by opposition to the west and seems to act accordingly".

- Herald Online, AP, AAP

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