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After damning leaks, Trump says his own spies are behaving 'just like Russia'

The Trump campaign team had repeated contact with Russian officials, according to the New York Times.

Updated at 1pm 

DONALD TRUMP HAS taken aim at his own intelligence services in a series of early morning tweets in the wake of reports overnight that members of his campaign team had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials in the year before he won the November general election.

This morning’s tweets, the first of which was sent at around 6.30am Washington time, also take aim at news outlets that have been covering reports of Trump’s links with Russia.

He blasted CNN and MSNBC as “unwatchable” and said information was being leaking illegally to the “failing” New York Times and Washington Post.

Trump, whose early tweets are now an established ritual in the daily US news cycle, suggested agencies like the NSA and FBI were behaving “just like Russia”.

The New York Times reported overnight that intercepted phone calls and phone records showed the repeated contacts between the campaign and Moscow’s intelligence community. Four current and former US officials were cited in the newspaper’s report.

American “law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee,” the Times said, citing three of the officials who spoke privately due to an ongoing investigation.

The nature of the purported calls was not disclosed.

The reports pile further pressure on the administration following the resignation earlier this week of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Flynn resigned barely three weeks after Trump’s inauguration amid allegations he had discussed recently imposed US sanctions on Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington before Trump took office, and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the call.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is already investigating Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s US election.

Here’s what Trump had to say this morning:

Trump typically spends mornings in the White House going through the newspapers and watching the cable news shows. He has frequently taken aim at the New York Times in his tweets since his election – but continues to give interviews to the paper.

According to a report in the newspaper based on a phone interview with Trump last month:

His mornings, he said, are spent as they were in Trump Tower. He rises before 6 a.m., watches television tuned to a cable channel first in the residence, and later in a small dining room in the West Wing, and looks through the morning newspapers: The New York Times, The New York Post and now The Washington Post.

Intelligence services

The only Trump aide named in the New York Times report overnight was Paul Manafort.

Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and a former political consultant in Russia and Ukraine, shrugged off the claims however.

“This is absurd,” he told the paper.

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.

The Times said US intelligence was investigating “whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election”. The officials interviewed by the paper had so far seen no evidence suggesting that cooperation had existed.

In January, US intelligence officials said in a report that Russia intervened in the US electoral process at least in part to help Trump win. He has spoken often about the need for a closer relationship between the United States and Russia.

“Let’s not believe anonymous information,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters, according to the Reuters news service.

It’s a newspaper report which is not based on any facts.

- With reporting from AFP

Read: Trump’s national security adviser quits after claims he misled White House over talks with Russians

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