Special counsel eyeing Russians granted unusual access to Trump inauguration parties

Source: ABC News | June 28, 2018 | Matthew Mosk, John Santucci

Several billionaires with deep ties to Russia attended exclusive, invitation-only receptions during Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities, guest lists obtained by ABC News show.

These powerful businessmen, who amassed their fortunes following the collapse of the Soviet Union — including one who has since been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department — were ushered into events typically reserved for top donors and close political allies and were given unprecedented access to Trump’s inner circle.

Their presence has attracted the interest of federal investigators probing Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Matthew Olsen, a former senior national security official who now serves as an ABC News consultant, said their presence at inaugural events is “very concerning.”

“This reflects a Russian strategy of gaining access to our political leaders at a time when they are just forming a government,” Olsen said. “They don’t need to be spies in the James Bond sense. They are powerful people with significant wealth who are in a position to exert influence on U.S. policy makers. And they’re in a position to report back to Russian intelligence services on what they’re able to learn.”

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