WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed American intelligence agencies for feeding media with information against him and claimed that today’s America was “just like Russia”.
He also dismissed reports that his campaign team was in frequent contact with senior Russian officials as “nonsense”. But the denial did not satisfy US lawmakers who are now demanding an independent inquiry into Trump aides’ alleged ties with Russia.
The media leaks led to Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation. Last week, The Washington Post reported that Flynn had discussed sanctions with a Russian official during the transition period, although Flynn had assured Vice President Mike Pence that this did not happen.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday night that other officials of the Trump administration have had contacts with Russian intelligence agents as well.
Flynn’s departure just three weeks after Trump’s inauguration as president allowed the media to claim that the White House was in total disarray.
The media’s claims irked Trump who went to his favourite medium of communication — Twitter — to fire off a series of tweets, attacking the media as well as the intelligence agencies.
In at least two tweets, Trump named the agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA) — that he said were “running a campaign against him”.
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American,” he tweeted. “Information is being illegally given to the failing New York Times and Washington Post by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia.”
Trump, who has had an adversarial relationship with the media since his campaign days, re-launched his attacks on news organisations on Wednesday.
“The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. MSNBC & CNN are unwatchable. Fox [News]… is great,” he tweeted.
The president, however, lauded one report by a news agency, and praised its reporter for saying that intelligence agencies were leaking information about his administration’s alleged Russian connections.
“Thank you to Eli Lake of The Bloomberg View — ‘The NSA & FBI…should not interfere in our politics…and is’ Very serious situation for USA,” he tweeted.
But in the same report, the reporter had also argued that it was difficult to believe Flynn was sacked only for lying to Vice President Pence.
“For a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it’s strange that Flynn’s ‘lie’ to Pence would get him fired. It doesn’t add up,” Lake wrote.
Reports in the media have suggested that Flynn was forced to resign because he had close ties with Russian officials and not just because he failed to share the contents of his calls to the Russian ambassador in Washington. In those calls, Flynn is believed to have assured the Russian envoy that the Trump administration (which had not come to power then) would reverse those sanctions against Russia that were imposed by the Obama administration.
President Trump rejected such reports as “nonsense”. “This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign,” he tweeted.
The president also rejected the charge that he was soft on Russia as incorrect. “Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?” he tweeted.