In June 2016, Rick Dearborn — then chief of staff to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and in charge of candidate Donald Trump's policy operation — sent an email to Trump campaign officials passing on an invitation from someone identified only as "WV" for top Trump officials to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, CNN reports, citing multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter. The email was among 20,000 pages of documents that the Trump campaign and White House turned over to congressional investigators. Dearborn is now President Trump's deputy White House chief of staff.
"WV" refers to West Virginia, a source tells CNN, and it isn't clear who the individual is, his or her connection to Russia, or whether Dearborn followed up on the request. In the email, he "appeared skeptical of the requested meeting," the source told CNN. Dearborn and the White House declined CNN's request for comment. Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported on a series of emails from a Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, who was also attempting to set up Trump team meetings with Russian officials. Sessions, now the attorney general, headed the foreign policy team that included Papadopoulos and Carter Page, another Russia-linked Trump campaign adviser, and investigators are reportedly interested in learning any role Dearborn played in setting up meetings between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
U.S. intelligence experts suggest that the emails show Russians trying to find points of entry into the Trump campaign. Kislyak, now retired, told CNN from Russia that the idea he tried to recruit Trump campaign members is "nonsense."