Two British political operatives were in regular contact with the Russian ambassador in London while they campaigned for, and met with, then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016, CNN reported Wednesday.
Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore were high-profile proponents of the 2016 campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, and Banks' donation of nearly $11 million to the pro-Brexit push is being investigated by the country's Electoral Commission.
According to CNN — which cited emails and social media posts – Banks and Wigmore attended a Trump rally in Mississippi with Nigel Farage from the United Kingdom Independence Party in August 2016, and traveled to Las Vegas for the final presidential debate in October 2016. Banks also told CNN he also attended a Trump event in St. Louis.
After the election, Banks and Wigmore were among a small group of Britons who visited the then-president-elect at Trump Tower in New York City.
Throughout the same period, Banks and Wigmore were in regular contact with the Russian ambassador in London, CNN reported, adding there is no evidence the Trump campaign knew about the men's contacts with Russian officials.
A few days after the Trump Tower meeting, CNN reported Banks and Wigmore met with the Russian ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Yakovenko. Wigmore says the only thing they provided the ambassador with was a phone number for the Trump transition team after the ambassador asked if they knew how to get in contact with Trump, CNN reported.
Wigmore and Banks appeared before a parliamentary committee Tuesday in London, where Banks told the committee he had "two lunches and one cup of tea" with the Russian ambassador, accusing committee members of being biased against people who campaigned for Brexit, and calling the investigation a "witch hunt." The committee meeting came to an abrupt end when both men refused to answer any more questions, CNN reported.
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