(CNN) – During his presidential campaign, high level advisers close to Donald Trump maintained constant communication with Russians known to U.S. intelligence.
The sources, current and former law enforcement, intelligence and administration officials, said the frequency of the conversations and proximity to Trump of those involved raised a red flag with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement. The timing, as it became clear to investigators that Russia was seeking to undermine the U.S. elections by hacking e-mails of democratic institutions, added to the alarm.
Then President-elect Trump and then President Barack Obama were briefed on concerns about the extensive communications in January.
Trump in January denied any knowledge of contacts with the Russians, and on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied there was any contact Spicer said, “My understanding is that what General Flynn has now expressed is that during the transition period, well, we were very clear that during the transition period, he did speak with the ambassador.”
With regards to during the campaign, Spicer said, “I don’t have any — there’s nothing that would conclude me — that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.”
Officials say the communications were intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting Russians known to U.S. intelligence. And among those who regularly communicated with Russian nationals, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who resigned his post as Trump’s National Security Advisor Monday night after news reports about a call with Russia’s ambassador regarding U.S. sanctions.
Manafort denied the claims in an interview, calling the allegations “boggling,” saying: “That is 100% not true, at least as far as me… I don’t remember talking to any Russian officials, ever. Certainly during the time we’re talking about.”