A damning report by The New York Times says US authorities intercepted communications while investigating Russian involvement in US presidential elections. Donald Trump responds by lashing out against the Times on Twitter.
Donald Trump's aides had been in touch with Russian government and intelligence officials during the presidential campaign, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing both current and former US officials. Although the White House has yet to comment on the story, the US president slammed the Times and the The Washington Post in response.
US intelligence and law-enforcement investigating Russia's involvement in the Democratic National Committee's hack and possible interference in the US presidential election came across phone records and intercepted calls which show Trump's campaign aides and other associates had been in touch with Russian intelligence.
According to the Times, the intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians in any efforts to influence the election, but officials interviewed by the paper said they had seen "no evidence of such cooperation."
However, Trump took to his favourite social media forum – Twitter – and questioned the role of the FBI and NSA in leaks regarding the administration:
Earlier in the morning, the US president had tweeted:
This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Trump administration faces another controversy
One of Trump's advisers identified on the calls was Paul Manafort. The former campaign chairman told the Times he never knowingly spoke to Russian intelligence officers. "It's not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I'm a Russian intelligence officer'."
Intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials or Russian intelligence. Other Trump associates, as well as members of the Russian government, were also in communication, the Times reported.
The intercepted calls are different from the wiretapped conversations last year between Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, and Sergey I Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, the Times said.
During those calls, the two men discussed sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December. Flynn misled the White House about those calls and resigned on Tuesday.
Last month, a top US intelligence official argued of being "even more resolute" in his belief that Russia staged cyber attacks on Democrats during the 2016 election campaign.