President Donald Trump's campaign team and other associates had repeated dealings with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to telephone records and intercepted calls disclosed by U.S. officials.
The data were intercepted around when U.S. intelligence officials were investigating Russian hacks into the Democratic National Committee and other party operatives last summer, The New York Times reported, citing three of the four present and former officials interviewed for the story.
The inquiry was then broadened to determine whether the Trump campaign was involved with Russians hacking or other efforts to sway the election — though officials told the Times no evidence of such cooperation had been detected.
"All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified," the Times reported.
In addition, the newspaper reported: "Officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, which Russian intelligence officials were on the calls, and how many of Mr. Trump's advisers were talking to the Russians.
"It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself," according to the dispatch.
One former associate detected on the calls was Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman.
Manafort has worked as a political consultant in Russia and Ukraine.
The officials declined to identify any other Trump associates who might have been identified on the calls, according to the report.
Manafort slammed the accusations as "absurd" Tuesday.
"I have no idea what this is referring to," he told the Times. "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 National Security Agency initially captured the communications — and the FBI then asked the agency to "collect as much information as possible about the Russian operatives on the phone calls, and to search through troves of previous intercepted communications that had not been analyzed," the Times reported.
The latest data, however, is different from the wiretapped conversations last year between retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn, who resigned Monday as national security adviser, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Those calls reportedly detailed discussions on sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the Times reported, while the FBI declined to comment.
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