MOSCOW -- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday denied reports of intercepted phone calls between Russian intelligence officials and members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The New York Times said that the Russians made contact with Paul Manafort, who briefly served as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman. Current and former U.S. officials interviewed by the Times declined to identify other Trump associates contacted by the Russians.
Sources told CBS News the FBI has questioned people close to the president, including General Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser Monday night.
Manafort and former campaign adviser Carter Page also reportedly talked to Russian officials last year. Manafort called the allegations absurd, telling the New York Times he had, “never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers.”
Pressure is mounting on both current and former Trump campaign and administration officials, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues. The FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies are digging into whether Trump associates were coordinating with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, just as the Russians were carrying out a wave of cyberattacks in the U.S.
According to U.S. officials, the hacks were intended to meddle in the election. CBS News has learned that intercepted electronic communications between Russian officials and Trump associates are providing new information for investigators. So far, however, the officials say there is no evidence of coordination.
For several months now, U.S. government officials have told CBS News that there was frequent contact between the Russian officials and Trump associates during the campaign. One source with knowledge of the developments said: “I think it’s worse than what we know.”
Flynn was questioned by FBI agents within the first few days of the Trump administration about whether, as a private citizen, he discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, just as the Obama White House was levying sanctions on Moscow.
Speaking Wednesday to reporters in Moscow, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Peskov pointed to the anonymity of the sources behind the Times report suggesting Trump team members had been intercepted speaking to Russian intelligence agents.
Peskov said the reports “are absolutely groundless, not based on any facts.”
The Kremlin spokesman urged people, in his conference call with journalists, not to trust journalists. “Let us not believe in what media say, for nowadays it is very difficult to tell actual news from fake ones,” he said.
Asked about the allegations, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday they “prove once against there is a major internal, political game, you can call it bargaining, in the United States.”
Russian lawmakers were more direct in trying to defend Trump.
“This is not about information but about a high-precision information bomb,” Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Federation Council’s information committee, tweeted. “The goal is to blow up the Trump administration.”