Trump campaign had 'chats' with Russians ahead of election

Members of President Trump's campaign team and several of his associates had numerous chats with the Russians in the year prior to the election, a report says.

Phone records and intercepted calls show that Trump campaign officials and advisers had been repeatedly conversing with senior Russian intelligence officials and other government individuals for months, according to the New York Times.

Current and former American officials told the newspaper that the communications were first discovered in the fall, around the same time that they learned about Russia's hacking of the DNC. What was discussed on the calls is ultimately unclear - and the officials wouldn't say whether Trump was even brought up.

Authorities reportedly began investigating whether there was any foul play or connection to the cyber attack, but were unable to find any evidence.

While the officials refused to identify the campaign officials involved, one of the associates that was reportedly calling the Russians was said to be Paul Manafort - who served as Trump's campaign chairman for several months and worked as a political consultant in Russia and Ukraine.

The 67-year-old shot down the accusations in a telephone interview with the Times on Tuesday, insisting he was in no way involved with the Russians.

"This is absurd," he said. "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.'"

The intercepted calls in question are different from the ones President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn reportedly had with Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak.

News Corp Australia

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