Law enforcement and intelligence agencies found that several of US President Donald Trump's associates, as well as several members of his campaign team, spoke numerous times with Russians prior to the November 2016 elections.
According to the New York Times, phone records and intercepted calls show Trump campaign officials and advisers repeatedly conversed with senior Russian government and intelligence officials. The conversations took place over a period of several months.
Four current and former US officials told the New York Times the communications were first discovered in the fall, around the same time as intelligence realized Russia posted disinformation to sabotage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
It is not clear what was discussed during the conversations, or if Trump was mentioned in them.
Authorities refused to identify which officials were involved, and were unable to find evidence connecting the phone calls to the cyber attack or foul play.
However, one of the officials in question is said to be Paul Manafort. Manafort served as Trump's campaign chairman for several months, and resigned after it became known that he had worked as a political consultant in both Russia and the Ukraine.
The FBI also investigated consultant Roger Stone and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page. All of these completely denied any and all accusations. As part of their Trump investigation campaign, the FBI has also also obtained bank records, travel documents, and conducted interviews.
Manafort said, "This is absurd. 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.'"
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said no one in the Trump campaign had contact with Russia prior to the election and that "there is nothing that would conclude me [sic] that anything has changed in the meantime."
The calls in question are completely separate from the ones Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reportedly had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.