Information gathered reportedly contributed compelling evidence in favor of the controversial surveillance of Carter Page.
The Times previously reported that a young foreign policy aide on the Trump campaign, George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosWe must get to the bottom of Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election Intelligence report defends Trump, draws attacks from Dems Schiff on Intel report: GOP "chose not to seriously investigate" collusion MORE, revealed he knew of hacked Democratic Party emails to Australian Ambassador Alexander Downer over late night drinks in London. "Days after they closed their investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, agents began scrutinizing the campaign of her Republican rival", writes the Times. Only about five Justice Department officials were aware of the case, according to officials cited in the story, in contrast to the dozen who would normally be briefed on such a national security matter.
"Crossfire Hurricane", a reference to a Rolling Stones lyrics, continued in secret as Trump publicly railed against the investigation, calling it a "witch hunt".
To date, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted four of Trump's campaign advisers - George Papadopolous, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn - as well as a California man named Richard Pinedo on charges of false statements, conspiring against the USA, identity fraud and money laundering.
The previously secret assignment began with an August 2016 Federal Bureau of Investigation interview of the Australian ambassador about his meeting with Papadopoulos to evaluate evidence a campaign adviser knew about Russian meddling.