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President Trump accused U.S. intelligence agencies of “illegally” leaking information to the New York Times and Washington Post on Wednesday, following reports that members of his presidential campaign were in contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
Amid a flurry of early morning tweets, Trump likened those leaking the information to the Kremlin.
“Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?),” Trump tweeted. “Just like Russia.”
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” Trump continued. “Very un-American!”
On Tuesday night, the Times reported that intercepted phone calls showed members of Trump’s presidential campaign “and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election,” according to current and former U.S. officials.
The only official named in the Times report was Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager with ties to pro-Kremlin interests in Ukraine. Manafort told the paper that the story was “absurd” and that he had “never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers.”
A Washington Post report quoted Eliot Cohen, President George W. Bush’s former adviser, saying the cloud “hanging over the administration when it comes to Russia” is darkening.
Trump dismissed the reports as a partisan effort to undermine his election victory.
“This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign,” Trump tweeted.
In October, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow was behind hacks that resulted in leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee and members of Clinton’s campaign. In December, President Obama announced sanctions against Russia over the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election.
And a report from those intelligence agencies made public in January concluded that the Russian government had interfered in an effort to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
In response, Trump lashed out at the intelligence community’s assessment, calling it a “card” being played by the Democrats to undercut him.
“Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card,” Trump tweeted at the time. “It would be called conspiracy theory!”
And as president-elect, Trump also likened intelligence community leaks to Nazi Germany.
Earlier this week, Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, resigned following a report in the Washington Post that Flynn had discussed American sanctions imposed on Russia during the transition — and had misled the administration about his conversations with Moscow.
Lawmakers, including several Republicans, called for an immediate investigation.
Apparently watching cable news shows Wednesday morning, Trump blasted the “fake news media” for covering it all.
“The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred,” the president tweeted. “@MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!”
Trump then name-checked a pundit who appeared on Fox News and criticized the leakers more than what the leaks contained.
Trump’s criticism of leaks is a departure from his stance on them during the presidential race.
During the month leading up to the Nov. 8 presidential election, Trump talked about WikiLeaks and emails obtained through the Russian hacks of the DNC and Clinton campaign at least 164 times, according to an analysis by ThinkProgress, the Washington-based progressive think tank and news organization.
Over a three-day span in October, for example, Trump professed his “love” for WikiLeaks at his rallies, marveling at his ability to broadcast the leaked material and directing his supporters to read it on the whistleblower website for themselves.
“One of the big advantages of me having a rather large microphone,” Trump said at a rally in Ocala, Fla., on Oct. 12, “meaning a lot of people are listening, is that I can talk about WikiLeaks, and we are live. It’s amazing. Boom, boom, boom.”
“I’ll tell you, this WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable,” he said a few hours later at a rally in nearby Lakeland. “It tells you the inner heart — you gotta read it.”
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