Mueller: Russian Officials ‘Appeared Not to Have Pre-existing Contacts’ With Trump Campaign

Susan Jones | April 18, 2019 | 12:59pm EDT
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President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake handsat a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

( – After all the talk about pre-election collusion and coordination between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report notes that Russian officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, weren't sure how to get in touch with Trump to congratulate him on election night.

The report says immediately after Donald Trump was elected president on Nov. 8, 2016, Russian officials “appeared not to have preexisting contacts and struggled to connect with senior officials around the President-elect.”

According to the Special Counsel’s report:

At approximately 3 a.m. on election night, Trump Campaign press secretary Hope Hicks received a telephone call on her personal cell phone from a person who sounded foreign but was calling from a number with a DC area code. Although Hicks had a hard time understanding the person, she could make out the words “Putin call.” Hicks told the caller to send her an email.

The following morning on November 9, 2016, Sergey Kuznetsov, an official at the Russian Embassy to the United States, emailed Hicks from his Gmail address with the subject line, “Message from Putin.” Attached to the email was a message from Putin, in both English and Russian, which Kuznetsov asked Hicks to convey to the President-Elect. In the message, Putin offered his congratulations to Trump for his electoral victory, stating he “look[ed] forward to working with [Trump] on leading Russian-American relations out of crisis.”

Hicks forwarded the email to Kushner, asking, “Can you look into this? Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!” Kushner stated in Congressional testimony that he believed that it would be possible to verify the authenticity of the forwarded email through the Russian Ambassador, whom Kushner had previously met in April 2016. Unable to recall the Russian Ambassador’s name, Kushner email Dimitri Simes of CNI, whom he had consulted previously about Russia…and asked, “What is the name of the Russian ambassador?” Kushner forwarded Simes’s response – which identified Kislyak by name – to Hicks. After checking with Kushner to see what he had learned, Hicks conveyed Putin’s letter to transition officials.

Five days later, on November 14, 2016, Trump and Putin spoke by phone in the presence of Transition Team members, including incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The report goes on to say, “As Russian officials in the United States reached out to the President-Elect and his team, a number of Russian individuals working in the private sector began their own efforts to make contact.”

Elsewhere in the report, Mueller details a “series of contacts between Trump campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.”

But the special counsel concluded that those contacts – including by George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and others – did not “establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

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