Russian officials boasted during the 2016 presidential campaign that they had developed a bond with Trump adviser Michael Flynn and could use him to influence the president, CNN reported late Friday. “This was a five-alarm fire from early on, the way the Russians were talking about him,” one former Obama official was cited as saying. Several intelligence officials said this prompted some members of the administration to limit how much sensitive information was given to Flynn. The conversations in which Russian officials made it clear they viewed Flynn as an ally happened throughout the campaign, in the months leading up to Flynn’s resignation in February. Sources cited by CNN say Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak may have influenced the Kremlin’s decision not to issue counter-sanctions against the U.S. after then-President Obama’s sweeping Russia sanctions in December. Shortly before Trump took office, Flynn told Kislyak the Trump administration would look favorably on Moscow not imposing counter-sanctions, and just a day later, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he wouldn’t retaliate, the report said. Flynn has yet to comment on the report, but the White House has issued a statement reiterating its denial of any collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. “We are confident that when these inquiries are complete there will be no evidence to support any collusion between the campaign and Russia,” a White House official said in a statement.
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