American law enforcement and intelligence services have intercepted calls and obtained phone records showing contacts between senior Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump's presidential campaign team and other of his associates in the year before the election, the New York Times reported Tuesday night.
According to the report, which cites four current and former American officials, the communications were intercepted around the same time evidence was discovered that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee in attempt to interfere with the elections.
The American intelligence agencies then investigated whether the Trump campaign and the Russians were coordinating these efforts, but the officials interviewed by the Times said no such evidence was discovered.
"But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin," Times report said.
Trump and then-President Barack Obama were both briefed on these contacts, U.S. officials told CNN, which also covered the story.
CNN noted that contacts between campaign staff and representatives of foreign governments are not unusual, but that the frequency of the contacts and the high level of officials on Trump team involved in the communications "raised a red flag" with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement.
The contacts included members of Trump's campaign team and other of his associates, including Paul Manafort, who served as the campaign chairman for several months and had business ties in Russia and Ukraine, the New York Times reported. On the Russian side, both intelligence and government officials were involved.
The CIA concluded last December that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help president-elect Donald Trump win the White House. Citing U.S. officials briefed on the matter, the Washington Post said intelligence agencies had identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, to WikiLeaks.
The New York Times report comes in the wake of the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had misled the White House over his phone calls with the Russian ambassador to Washington. In these calls, which were intercepted by American intelligence, the two discussed the U.S. sanctions on Russia.
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