Members of President Donald Trump’s campaign staff were in contact with Russian officials several times before the November election, according to reports from the New York Times and CNN.
American officials intercepted communications between Trump campaign aides and officials in Russia around the same time that they were uncovering Russian cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed former and current American officials.
President Donald Trump was briefed about the intercepted communications between Trump aides and Russian officials at the time, CNN reported, citing “US officials familiar with the matter.”
U.S. officials looked into the communications but did not find evidence of collusion between the Russian officials and Trump campaign aides, according to the New York Times.
In addition to Trump campaign aides, others associated with Trump also made contact with Russian intelligence officials and other members of the Russian government, according to the Times. Officials who spoke with the New York Times identified Paul Manafort as one of the aides in contact with Russia but would not name additional staffers. Manafort, who had previously worked for Ukrainian officials tied to Vladimir Putin, left the Trump campaign in August.
Manafort denied to the Times that he made contact with Russian officials during the campaign.
“This is absurd,” he told the Times. “I have no idea what this is referring to. 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.”
“It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer,'” Manafort added.
The FBI has also looked at two other associates of Trump, Roger Stone and Carter Page, who left the campaign in September amid allegations that he made contact with Russian officials, the Times reported. However, it’s not clear that U.S. officials intercepted calls made by Stone or Page, per the Times.
These revelations come after the resignation of Michael Flynn as Trump’s national security adviser. He was asked to resign following reports that he spoke about U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn had initially denied speaking about sanctions, but amended his statement last week to say that he could not recall the details of the conversations. Vice President Mike Pence was not made aware of the content Flynn’s calls until Feb. 9, several days after Trump was briefed on Flynn’s calls, according to NBC News.