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The Trump administration begins another day with fresh questions over its close ties with Russia. This comes as controversy continues to swirl about the resignation of a top administration official for his inappropriate discussions with Russia’s ambassador.

A New York Times report late Tuesday says phone records and intercepted calls show that members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team and other Trump associates were in constant contact with senior Russian intelligence officials before the election.

Based on interviews with current and former American officials, the Times said U.S. intelligence agencies gathered the information when they discovered Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system. But there’s no evidence yet that the Trump campaign schemed with the Russians to interfere with the election.

Still, repeated contact between Trump associates and Russian intelligence alarmed American intelligence agencies because they occurred while Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin in campaign speeches.

The Times’ sources identified Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort as one of the president’s advisers whose calls were intercepted. Manafort, however, denies wrongdoing.

“This is absurd,” he told the newspaper. “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.”

The White House declined a Times request to comment on the report. However, the administration’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said earlier on Tuesday that Trump denies that his campaign had contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.

This fresh controversy comes on the heels of Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigning his post Monday after revelations that he inappropriately discussed American sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador. Flynn also misled Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials about those communications.

SOURCE: New York Times


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