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Pence: Trump Presidential Campaign Has Had No Contacts With Russia

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Vice President-elect Mike Pence says the Trump presidential campaign had no contacts with Russia and he denies that the incoming national security adviser spoke with Russian officials in December about sanctions.

Pence was asked several times on "Fox News Sunday'' whether anyone associated with the president-elect had contact with Russia during last year's battle against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Pence replied, "of course not.'' He added that such questions are part of an effort to cast doubts on Trump's victory ahead of the inauguration Friday.

Pence also called the timing of a conversation between Trump's national security adviser and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. "strictly coincidental."

In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," Pence says retired Gen. Michael Flynn sent a text message to the Russian ambassador wishing him a Merry Christmas and offering his condolences for a recent Russian plane crash.

Pence says, "it was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation" as new sanctions were announced. He insists the discussion did not address a decision by the Obama administration to expel Russian diplomats or extend sanctions over recent allegations that the Russian government interfered with the U.S. presidential election.

President Barack Obama's chief of staff said the president has sought an assessment on any interference in the 2016 election so that policymakers could address the issue.

Denis McDonough said it is "important for the president that we get a full assessment'' to brief policymakers so they can "implement policies to make sure that doesn't happen again.''

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union,'' McDonough said the intelligence community is "staffed by an unbelievably cadre of professionals'' and he dismissed the notion that they would seek to undermine Trump's victory as Trump has suggested.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia's goal was to help Donald Trump win — an assessment Trump has dismissed as ridiculous. Trump has lashed out at those who have suggested his win was aided by Russian involvement.

CIA Director John Brennan said intelligence officials briefed Trump on a dossier of unverified but potentially damaging information Russia had on him because it was well known and they wanted the president-elect to be aware of it.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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