Trump administration
President Donald Trump (left to right), joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and the then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, speaks on phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House, Jan. 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Donald Trump’s election campaign and several aides were in constant touch with senior Russian intelligence authorities prior to the 2016 election, the New York Times reported late Tuesday. The president’s team has increasingly come under fire for being in contact with Russia, whose hackers were involved in cyberattacks that possibly influenced the election in Trump’s favor.

The alleged communications between Trump's associates and Moscow were found during an investigation into the Russian cyberattacks, the Times reported. However, U.S. intelligence officials did not find evidence that the president’s team worked with Russia to influence the election results.

Despite this, officials have raised concerns over the communications because it happened while Trump repeatedly praised Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. At one point during his campaign, the 70-year-old urged Russian intelligence services to make his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton’s emails public.

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing," Trump said at the time. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens, that'll be nice."

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was the only one mentioned in intercepted communications cited by the newspaper. He quit the Trump campaign last August.

“This is absurd,” Manafort told the Times. “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.”

Manafort added: “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”

The report follows Michael Flynn’s resignation Monday night as the national security adviser after increasing pressure and speculations about his calls with Russian officials. He reportedly got in touch with Sergei I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., in December, the day before then President Barack Obama imposed the latest round of sanctions on Russia.

Throughout his year-long presidential campaign, Trump spoke about his plans to establish better relations with Russia. However, several Republicans are of the opinion that Trump administration should take a tough stand against Moscow — especially since U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russian hackers were involved in cyberattacks on the Democratic Party servers in July. The information leaked by the hacks raised doubts over Clinton’s credibility and may even have swayed the election in Trump’s favor.