Three Americans with significant Russian business connections contributed almost $2 million to political funds controlled by Donald Trump, ABC News has learned.
The timing of contributions coming from US citizens with ties to Russia is now being questioned by investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a Republican campaign aide interviewed by Mueller’s team.
Unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner, they would be legal, but could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 campaign, said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
“Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern,” Schiff told ABC News.
A review of Trump campaign records conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics for ABC News found large contributions coming from two émigrés born in the former Soviet Union who now hold U.S. citizenship, and from a third American who heads the subsidiary of a large Russian private equity firm.
Those donations began flowing to the Republican National Committee, the group says, just as Trump was on the verge of securing the Republican nomination and culminated in two large gifts – totaling $1.25 million – from these individuals to the Trump inaugural fund following his victory.
Government officials familiar with the House and Senate investigations into Russian election interference told ABC News that near the conclusion of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Trump’s son Don Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Russian emissaries interested in curtailing U.S. sanctions, Manafort made a cryptic and cursory notation on his phone. It said, “Active sponsors of RNC,” a phrase that some investigators have viewed as a reference to campaign donations, the sources said.
Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni disputed any notion that he was referencing contributions, telling ABC News any assertion that they talked money was “not true.”
“This sounds like more Washington whispers,” Maloni said. “Anonymous sources with self-serving motives peddling rumors and speculation.”
Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which specializes in analyzing and tracking political contributions, said she would expect the special counsel to look closely at one of the…