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President Trump is continuing to assail those who leaked information about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s phone calls with Russia and the media for publishing it.
The attacks against leaks are striking as Trump attempts to shift the focus of his administration’s controversies over to what he calls the “real scandal” of leaks. At the same time, he has demanded an apology from the media for reporting on the disclosures, while also branding the information “fake news.”
This is a newfound philosophy for Trump, who during the campaign embraced leaks that damaged Hillary Clinton.
“Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years,” Trump tweeted early Thursday. “Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!”
“The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers!” the president continued. “They will be caught!”
“FAKE NEWS media, which makes up stories and ‘sources,’ is far more effective than the discredited Democrats,” Trump added. “But they are fading fast!”
Trump’s fresh round of tweets come a day after he accused U.S. intelligence agencies of “illegally” leaking information to the New York Times and the Washington Post following reports that members of his presidential campaign were in contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
The president even 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 Wednesday morning. “Just like Russia.”
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” he added. “Very un-American!”
Trump appears to be desperate to shift attention away from his administration’s relationship with Moscow, which has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the news that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Flynn resigned late Monday.
Ironically, it was Trump who used to “love” leaks, particularly those that resulted in WikiLeaks’ publication of emails obtained through the Russian hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s presidential campaign.
During the month leading up to the Nov. 8 presidential election, Trump talked about WikiLeaks 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 proclaimed his fandom 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.”
On Oct. 12, Trump even criticized the media for what he characterized as largely ignoring the leaked information.
“Very little pickup by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks,” he said.
On Wednesday, Trump also accused the media of “going crazy with their conspiracy theories.”
Yet it was Trump who began his career in politics by championing the so-called “birther” conspiracy, which falsely suggested President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. In September, Trump finally admitted Obama was an American citizen but offered no apology for his part in leading the “birther” movement.
Earlier in the campaign, Trump said he saw “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey’s “large Arab populations” cheering on 9/11 as the World Trade Center came down. But Trump never provided evidence to back up his claim.
During a meeting with Republican congressmen at the White House later Thursday morning, Trump was asked by members of the press pool if he still plans to “find the leakers.”
“We’re going to find the leakers and they’re going to pay a big price,” the president said.
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