STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

British political operatives met with Russian ambassador days after Trump visit

Two British political operatives were in regular contact with the Russian ambassador in London while they campaigned for, and met with, Donald Trump in the United States in 2016, a review of emails and social media posts show.

Posted: Jun 14, 2018 11:43 AM
Updated: Jun 14, 2018 11:47 AM

Two British political operatives were in regular contact with the Russian ambassador in London while they campaigned for, and met with, Donald Trump in the United States in 2016, a review of emails and social media posts shows.

Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore were prominent figures in the 2016 campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Banks' donation of more than 8 million pounds (nearly $11 million) to the pro-Brexit campaign is the subject of a probe by the country's Electoral Commission, amid concerns of Russian interference.

After successfully campaigning for Brexit in June, the men's attention appeared to turn to the United States.

In August 2016, Banks and Wigmore attended a Trump rally in Mississippi with Nigel Farage from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

Farage spoke at the event, and was introduced by then-candidate Trump as "the man behind Brexit."

Social media posts show the men traveled to Las Vegas for the final presidential debate in October 2016 and Banks 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.

Emails reviewed by CNN show dozens of correspondences between the Russian embassy officials and the two men, including lunch and embassy event invitations.

There is no evidence the Trump campaign knew about the men's contacts with Russian officials.

Beginning in late 2015 and continuing into 2016, Banks was offered the opportunity of involvement in a $3 billion consolidation of six Russian gold mines with a company part-owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin's former deputy chief of staff, Kirill Androsov.

The deal was referred to as the "gold play" in multiple emails.

Speaking to CNN, Banks acknowledged he had been approached about the transaction but after soliciting advice from experts on Russia and mining, he decided not to proceed.

As part of the "gold play," another email appears to show an associate of Banks requesting a meeting in Moscow with Sberbank, a Russian bank that was sanctioned by the US and the European Union after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Banks told CNN on Tuesday he didn't meet with Sberbank nor did he seek a meeting with them. He also said the money he donated to the Brexit campaign was not from Russian sources.

"I am a UK taxpayer and I funded the referendum campaign with my own funds," he said.

The details of some of the emails were first reported by The Sunday Times and The Observer newspapers in London.

Trump Tower meeting

Four days after Trump was elected, Banks Wigmore and Farage had what they say was an unplanned meeting with the then-President-elect in Trump Tower.

Afterward, the men posed proudly with Trump outside a set of gold-plated doors in Trump's building in Midtown Manhattan.

A few days later, Banks and Wigmore met with the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko.

Speaking to Farage on his radio show on LBC in London on Monday night, Banks said the ambassador once again reached out to Wigmore after he had seen pictures of the pair in Trump Tower.

Farage suggested people would ask if the men were "reporting back" to the Russians.

"Well, not really," Banks responded. "We had a really pleasant lunch with him that lasted six hours and of course he saw a picture of us in front of the golden doors of Trump's apartment and of course he got in touch with Andy because he had seen us splashed all over the newspaper."

Wigmore said 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.

Wigmore claimed the ambassador said he didn't know how to contact the incoming administration.

A week earlier, Putin had congratulated Trump on his electoral success in a telegram.

The Russian Embassy in London did not respond to CNN's requests for comment.

The three men later traveled to Trump's inauguration in January 2017, where they also held an event for their book "The Bad Boys of Brexit."

Emails emerge

Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower whose revelations about the company led to its closure and prompted a crisis for Facebook, said he had seen some of the emails sent by Wigmore and Banks before some of them first emerged publicly this past weekend in the British press.

Wylie said he reported the emails to the British National Crime Agency and told the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California about the messages during a private briefing in Washington DC last month.

"I was concerned that the information I saw was suspicious to say the least," Wylie told CNN in London on Monday. "I would hope that there was an inquiry to what happened and what relationships were cultivated here in Britain and whether that impacted the American election."

British member of parliament Stephen Kinnock wrote to the Metropolitan Police in London after details of some of the emails emerged.

"Given Mr Banks's extensive interaction with the Russian government and the fact that the origins of his £9 million pounds donation remain unknown, I urge the Metropolitan Police to make formal inquiries to clarify the nature of Mr Banks's ambiguous relations with the Russian government," Kinnock wrote.

UK Committee

On Tuesday, Wigmore and Banks appeared before a parliamentary committee in London.

During a spirited session, Banks told the committee he had "two lunches and one cup of tea" with the Russian ambassador.

They accused the committee members of being biased against people who campaigned for the UK to leave the European Union, and called the investigation a "witch hunt."

The men dismissed some of their own previous claims about parts of their work on the Brexit campaign. Wigmore told the committee he was an agent provocateur, and often exaggerates and spins the truth.

Wigmore says that was the case when he emailed a journalist in February 2016 saying that Banks was in Russia.

Damian Collins, a member of Parliament and head of a committee investigating fake news, said the men had "themselves put on the record that they frequently lie, exaggerate, misspeak and misunderstand," adding it was difficult to know whether to believe what the men told the committee about their meetings with Russian officials.

The committee meeting came to an abrupt end when both men refused to answer any more questions, saying they had an appointment for lunch.

Afterward, on social media, the men shared lunchtime selfies of themselves with two Northern Irish politicians.

Terre Haute
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 56°
Robinson
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 56°
Indianapolis
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 55°
Rockville
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 52°
Casey
Broken Clouds
58° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 58°
Brazil
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 56°
Marshall
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 56°
Showers Today!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Support group aims to prevent suicide among first responders

Image

Monday: Showers, cooler. High: 64

Image

Sunday Evening Forecast

Image

Woman remembers national hero

Image

Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra Concert

Image

Athletes clean up Wabashiki

Image

High speed police chase ends in Vermillion county with gunfire

Image

Farms open for Fall season

Image

Annual Fall-out Ride

Image

'Cruisin' for Cruisers' car show

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 290373

Reported Deaths: 8845
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1436345210
DuPage17471561
Lake16892487
Will13984378
Kane13092326
St. Clair6607190
Winnebago5959149
Madison5698136
Champaign470320
McHenry4581118
Peoria349450
McLean327923
Rock Island299576
Kankakee274177
Unassigned2537244
Sangamon241145
Kendall200925
Tazewell177425
LaSalle171257
DeKalb157938
Macon154444
Coles146430
Williamson140145
Jackson126124
Clinton116920
Boone112523
Adams112310
Randolph93911
Effingham8702
Vermilion7704
Whiteside74320
Ogle7106
Monroe67416
Knox6703
Grundy6695
Henry6665
Morgan66123
Bureau64111
Jefferson61138
Marion5540
Macoupin5447
Christian53911
Franklin5393
Stephenson5236
Union51524
McDonough48015
Logan4641
Crawford4503
Woodford4246
Fayette4183
Cass39811
Livingston3956
Jersey39215
Shelby3904
Montgomery37213
Lee3711
Iroquois36519
Perry35015
Saline3404
Warren3322
Bond3285
Douglas3127
Wayne2805
Jo Daviess2632
Lawrence2562
Carroll2305
Greene22711
Cumberland2175
Hancock2173
Moultrie2143
Jasper2119
Washington2111
Richland2095
Pulaski1801
Fulton1760
Clark1732
White1680
Johnson1560
Clay1540
Wabash1543
Mason1471
Piatt1400
Mercer1395
Pike1281
Menard1251
De Witt1221
Edgar1138
Massac1122
Ford1065
Marshall1040
Alexander811
Scott780
Gallatin732
Hamilton682
Henderson660
Edwards630
Brown610
Calhoun600
Putnam570
Stark552
Schuyler500
Hardin400
Pope291
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 117450

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21403766
Lake10618323
Elkhart6667111
St. Joseph6576110
Allen6292203
Hamilton4909109
Vanderburgh371931
Hendricks2747123
Monroe262736
Tippecanoe252313
Johnson2338124
Clark223657
Porter217647
Delaware198562
Cass19549
Vigo184327
Madison168975
LaPorte147441
Floyd138963
Warrick134440
Howard131863
Kosciusko124817
Bartholomew117957
Marshall101224
Dubois99119
Boone98646
Grant93334
Hancock93243
Noble92532
Henry80926
Jackson7689
Wayne76814
Morgan72938
Daviess67728
Shelby67729
Dearborn66528
LaGrange63911
Clinton60914
Harrison58724
Putnam58112
Gibson5305
Knox5259
Lawrence51529
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48711
White48614
Decatur45839
Miami4383
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper3992
Steuben3877
Scott38111
Posey3400
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31125
Ripley3038
Clay3025
Orange28824
Whitley2796
Carroll27713
Adams2743
Wabash2718
Washington2691
Starke2677
Wells2654
Spencer2593
Jefferson2483
Huntington2453
Fulton2412
Tipton22822
Perry22113
Randolph2207
Jay1880
Newton17311
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1621
Rush1574
Vermillion1300
Fountain1282
Blackford1203
Pulaski1131
Crawford1080
Brown1043
Parke1032
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren401
Unassigned0226