Donald Trump started Wednesday by continuing his efforts to deflect blame for an escalating scandal involving Russia, the 2016 election and his top associates, as the president seemed to suggest intelligence agencies and media outlets are in cahoots.
As cable news morning shows discussed the dismissal of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, after just 25 days and New York Times and CNN reports of repeated contact between his campaign aides and Russian intelligence, Trump lashed out at the National Security Agency, FBI, CNN and MSNBC.
He labeled the networks, as he often does, “fake news,” tweeting they are “going crazy” by reporting “conspiracy theories” and suggesting the networks have “blind hatred” toward him.
In a second tweet just after 7 a.m., the president started his 27th day in power by alleging the focus on Russia is “non-sense” that really is a “cover-up” aimed at protecting his general election foe, Hillary Clinton, from the “many mistakes” she made during her unsuccessful White House bid.
This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
(Trump’s latest Twitter rants ignored the many media accounts, including by Roll Call reporters and columnists, of the Clinton campaign’s missteps in losing the general election to a bombastic businessman and former reality television star who had never ran for elected office and ran on a platform of populist promises that were scant on policy details.)
Trump also used his Twitter blast to lash out at those providing information about Russia and his top aides to media outlets, saying it is being “illegally” leaked. He pointed the finger directly at the NSA and FBI, and said the situation is “just like Russia” - although Russian President Vladimir Putin likely would take far more aggressive actions to find and punish the leakers.
The president, seeming to pick up on a congressional GOP talking point, sent a tweet at 8:13 a.m. trying to recast the focus to what he dubbed the “real scandal,” the leaks of intelligence that he charged are being handed to news outlets “like candy.” He dubbed such actions “very un-American.”
The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by "intelligence" like candy. Very un-American!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
On Tuesday, Trump’s top spokesman, Sean Spicer, raised concerns about the leaking of national security information related to Flynn, saying such leaks have gone on for four consecutive administrations.
But the White House press secretary declined to say how Trump plans to plug the holes.
“The president is clearly upset about this,” Spicer said, and intends to “take steps” to stop future leaks. He told reporters it would be unwise for the president to state how he plans to find and stop such disclosures because it would tip off would-be leakers.
Trump’s attempts to divert attention away from his inner circle’s ties to Moscow included another tweet that criticized former President Barack Obama.
“Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?” the president asked in another post.
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
As they often are early in the mornings and on weekends, the tweets were fired off from his personal account.
Flynn was asked by Trump to resign on Monday night after Spicer said the president lost “trust” in him over his misleading statements about calls with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the transition. Spicer told reporters the White House legal counsel’s office went through a “deliberative process” that concluded Flynn did not violate any laws forbidding private citizens from negotiating on behalf of the U.S. government.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that it is likely his chamber will add the Flynn situation and departure to an ongoing Intelligence Committee probe of Russian efforts to influence the election. The situation, as is much of the Trump presidency, is putting GOP leaders in a tough spot politically.
“People are free to do what they want,” Spicer said when asked if the White House would cooperate with any congressional probes into Flynn's ties and talks with Russian officials. He coyly said the White House plans to “comply with the law.”
On Tuesday, many GOP members defended Trump over Flynn’s actions and departure. But most clearly wanted to dispose of reporters' questions, calling for the country to “move on” since the retired three-star general had left the White House.