Earlier this week, Donald Trump won the presidential election over Hillary Clinton. The first world leader to congratulate Trump was Russian President Vladimir Putin. It turns out that Russian government officials might have had ties to Trump's campaign team during the election, after all—which Trump has persistently denied.
According to the Washington Post, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview that "there were contacts" with Trump's campaign team.
"Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage," Ryabkov explained. "Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions. I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives."
He added, "We have just begun to consider ways of building dialogue with the future Donald Trump administration and channels we will be using for those purposes."
With that said, Ryabkov didn't provide additional details, such as the names of people in contact. And according to Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks, "The campaign had no contact with Russian officials."
Trump might actually not be as close to Russia as it sounds. According to Bloomberg News, Ryabkov called the talks "part of routine everyday work," and said there was also "sporadic" (and "not always productive") contact with the Clinton Campaign. The Washington Post reports that the Clinton campaign refused meetings involving Russian embassy staff and campaign officials.
Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova later argued that Ryabkov was discussing meetings between the Russian embassy staff and U.S. officials who supported Trump, rather than actual Trump campaign staff members, according to the Washington Post. In addition to those meetings, Zakharova said that the Russian Embassy might've helped Russian journalists get in touch with Trump's campaign team for interviews.
Back in July, when he was encouraging Russia to hack Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump dismissed allegations that he and his campaign had ties to Russia. Calling it "a conspiracy theory" and "ridiculous," Trump CBS 4 in Miami at the time. "I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia."