Members of U.S. president Donald Trump’s campaign team and others affiliated with the then-candidate talked with Russian intelligence in the year leading up to the U.S. presidential election, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
Communications intercepted by U.S. authorities indicated that Trump associates were repeatedly in contact with intelligence and government officials from Russia around the same time that Trump was openly praising President Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail, said four unnamed current and former American officials cited by the newspaper.
Those communications were found at about the same time that U.S. agencies found evidence that Russia was trying to hack the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
CNN confirmed the Times report on Tuesday.
Paul Manafort, who previously worked as Trump’s campaign chairman, was one of the people that an official identified in the communications.
Trump spoke glowingly of Putin on the campaign trail. At one point, he said Putin was a better leader than former U.S. president Barack Obama.
On another occasion he said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” in reference to messages that could not be found on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s private server.
WATCH BELOW: Does Donald Trump have close ties with Vladimir Putin?
CNN backed up the Times account, saying that both Trump and Obama were briefed on communications that had occurred between Russians and people attached to the Republican candidate’s campaign, according to unnamed officials.
It’s not unusual for campaigns to commiserate with people attached to foreign governments, CNN said.
But U.S. intelligence and law enforcement raised a “red flag” about these communications because of their frequency and the Trump advisers were at such a high level, the network said.
U.S. authorities were also concerned that Russian officials felt they had strong access to the presidential candidate, though they may have been inflating their ties, officials told CNN.
The report came one day after Michael Flynn, Trump’s security adviser, resigned his post while admitting that he had given “incomplete information” to Vice-President Mike Pence about his communication with a Russian envoy.
Pence had initially said that Flynn never discussed sanctions with the Russians. Flynn later admitted that he may have discussed that matter.
ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.
This is how he responded: