Report: Trump campaign aides were in contact with Russian intel officials

Intercepted phone calls and phone records show that several aides and allies to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDefining Trumpism: Making sense of the Trump’s first 100 days Top commander in Pacific: US needs to strengthen missile defense Planned Parenthood Action Fund launches GOTV effort in Montana special election MORE's presidential campaign were in repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials, according to The New York Times.

Current and former officials that spoke with the Times would not give many details, and it's not clear exactly who, both from the U.S. and Russia, were part of the conversations or what they talked about, including if discussions centered on Trump himself.
 
Officials told the publication that they have seen no evidence of collusion in regards to hacking or the election.
 
Three of the four current and former officials who spoke with the Times said the contacts were discovered during the same time that U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating Russia's extensive hacking campaign, later determined to be aimed at helping Trump win the White House.
   
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The Times's sources said Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, was picked up on the calls. Manafort left the campaign after several months as reports swirled about his business ties in Russia and Ukraine. The officials would not name any other Trump aides or supporters captured in the conversations.
 
“This is absurd,” Manafort 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.”
 
Manafort added: “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”
 
Alongside the senior intelligence officials in the Kremlin, various Trump associates also had contact with officials outside of the Russian intelligence community, according to the report. 
 
Trump and his team have previously denied any contact with Russian officials. 
 
According to the newspaper, the intercepted calls were different from the conversations between Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

On Monday, Flynn announced his resignation over the exchange after he initially mislead officials, including Vice President Pence, about the contents of his conversation with Kislyak. He reportedly discussed sanctions with Kislyak before Trump's inauguration; he said this week they specifically discussed the 35 Russian officials expelled from the U.S. as part of the Obama administration's sanctions and that "no lines were crossed." 

The Times noted that the other aides' conversations were initially discovered by the National Security Agency during a routine foreign surveillance operation.

Following the discovery, the FBI requested that the NSA analyze other intercepted communications and gather intelligence on the Russian operatives to look for any evidence of collusion.
 
The FBI has also looked closely at Flynn, businessman and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and GOP operative and Trump ally Roger Stone. All have denied any improper conversation with Russian officials. 

The Times also reported that the FBI is currently analyzing the unverified dossier compiled by a former British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele, who alleged that Russian officials had compromising information on Trump. 

The report noted that the claims in the dossier have not been confirmed by the FBI but added that one U.S. official said that the bureau has contacted several of Steele's sources.
 
U.S. officials also told CNN that both Trump and President Obama were briefed on details of the extensive contact between people with ties to Trump's campaign and business and suspected Russian operatives.
 
Trump has been hounded by accusations about his aides' ties to Russia and his own friendliness toward Putin, in addition to intelligence agencies' findings about Russian efforts to help him win the White House. 
 
Russian meddling in the election is already being investigated by congressional committees, and the events surrounding Flynn have only intensified calls from both sides of the aisle for comprehensive probes of the issue.