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F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives

December 8, 2017

On Thursday and Friday, investigators working for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, interviewed Ms. Hicks as part of his investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s advisers assisted the Russian campaign. It is not clear whether the Russian efforts to contact Ms. Hicks were discussed during that interview.

In early January, American intelligence agencies formally accused Russian intelligence agencies of trying to tip the presidential election toward Mr. Trump, who was reluctant to accept that conclusion. Against that backdrop, senior F.B.I. officials went to the White House in the early days of the Trump administration and warned all senior aides to be cautious about espionage threats, especially from Russia and China.

Then the F.B.I., in coordination with the National Security Council, separately briefed Ms. Hicks and at least one other person close to the president. In a meeting in February, Ms. Hicks was told generally about the Russian intelligence efforts and pressed them for more information. A senior F.B.I. agent met again with Ms. Hicks, and provided her several names of Russians who had contacted her and whom the F.B.I. was concerned about.


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Ms. Hicks informed Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, about the meetings.

The F.B.I. meetings with Ms. Hicks occurred at the time of a brewing controversy involving Michael T. Flynn, then the national security adviser, and his calls during the transition with the Russian ambassador at the time. Mr. Flynn lied to the F.B.I. about those discussions, and intelligence officials worried that his lies made him susceptible to Russian blackmail.

The Russian emails to Ms. Hicks occurred six months after the F.B.I. had begun investigating possible connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. American intelligence officials were alarmed about repeated contacts during the campaign between Mr. Trump’s staff and outside advisers and Russians, and feared that Russia was trying to influence the Trump campaign.

In some ways, the Russian outreach to Ms. Hicks undercuts the idea that the Russian government had established deep ties to the Trump campaign before the election. If it had, Russian officials might have found a better entrèe to the White House than unprompted emails to Ms. Hicks.

But after a yearlong campaign in which the Russian government frequently succeeded in making contact with people around Mr. Trump, the overtures to Ms. Hicks also demonstrate that Russian officials seemed intent on gaining access to Mr. Trump’s inner circle by any means they could.

They had already succeeded in connecting with George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser who has since pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russians. Mr. Papadopoulos met with and exchanged numerous emails with Russian intermediaries who Mr. Mueller’s team believes were trying to gain access to the campaign through him.

Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting.

Follow Adam Goldman on Twitter: @adamgoldmanNYT.

A version of this article appears in print on December 9, 2017, on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: F.B.I. Warned Trump Adviser About Russian Outreach. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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