Donald Trump’s former campaign manager said Wednesday that he didn’t think it was even “inadvertently” possible that he had spoken to Russian officials during the campaign.
Manafort seemed to be responding to reports from the New York Times and CNN that members of Trump’s campaign had repeated contact with Russian officials, including intelligence officers, during the campaign.
“I had no contact knowingly with Russian intelligence officials,” Manafort said, according to NBC News. “I don’t think it’s possible I could have even inadvertently had discussions with Russian officials. It’s not like they wear badges. The story is not true.”
— NBC News PR (@NBCNewsPR) February 15, 2017
The New York Times cited four current and former American officials for their story, who the paper said knew of phone records and intercepted calls supporting its report. CNN cited multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials.
CNN also reported, in the same story, that former President Obama and President Trump had been briefed on the details of the “extensive” communications between Trump campaign and business associates and Russian officials.
Responding to the Times, which reported that Manafort was among the Trump advisers observed calling Russian officials, Manafort said the story was “absurd.”
“I have no idea what this is referring to,” he said Tuesday. “I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”
Responding to CNN, Manafort said “That is 100% not true, at least as far as me,” referring to the charge that he was in contact with Russians known to U.S. intelligence officials.
Manafort resigned from his role as Trump’s campaign manager in August, days after the Times reported that the deposed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s political party had set aside $12.7 million for Manafort in an off-the-books ledger. Manafort had previously advised Yanukovych, but denied accepting the funds and called the charges “unfounded, silly, and nonsensical.” He was eventually replaced at the top of Trump’s campaign by Steve Bannon.