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Trump Fires New Broadsides at US Intelligence Community, Media, Obama

  • Ken Bredemeier

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a listening session with the Retail Industry Leaders Association and member company CEOs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Feb. 15, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump launched new attacks Wednesday against media reports of alleged links between him and Russia, blaming the country's intelligence community for what he said were "illegal" leaks to news outlets.

"The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by 'intelligence' like candy.Very un-American!" Trump said.

In a string of Twitter comments, Trump suggested news articles detailing links between him, his campaign aides and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian officials were aimed at undermining his victory in the November election.

Trump, in office for less than a month, said in one of his tweets, "This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign."

He said "the fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred."He said two U.S. cable news outlets, MSNBC and CNN, were "unwatchable", while describing the Trump-friendly talk show "Fox & Friends" as "great."

At the same time, the president claimed that "information is being illegally given to the failing" New York Times and Washington Post "by the intelligence community," the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, "just like Russia."

The Post last week was the first newspaper to publish details about phone conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to Washington before Trump took office, while the Times in Wednesday's editions said Trump aides and associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.

The new president also fired a broadside at his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, saying, "Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration.Was Obama too soft on Russia?"

Obama often rebuked Moscow for its unilateral 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and the United States, along with the European Union, imposed sanctions against Russia.But the West did not intervene militarily and Crimea remains under Russian control.

Russia dismissed the Times' report that members of Trump's campaign and other associates were in contact with senior Russian intelligence officials before the November U.S. election.

The Times cited four current and former U.S. officials saying law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted calls and had phone records involving Trump's one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort and several other unnamed associates.

Watch related report from VOA's Bill Gallo:

Manafort called the accounts "absurd," the Times said.

He also denied a similar CNN report that Trump associates, including Manafort and Flynn, were regularly communicating with Russian nationals before the election.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the report "is not based on any facts," while Russian media quoted the country's foreign intelligence service saying reports about the contacts were unfounded.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing that Russian envoys acted within normal practice for diplomats of all countries.

Mike Flynn arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Feb. 13, 2017.
Mike Flynn arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Feb. 13, 2017.

Flynn was ousted Monday after information became public about contacts he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak ahead of Trump's inauguration on January 20.

The White House said Tuesday that Trump, based on intercepts of Flynn's calls with Kislyak, was advised nearly three weeks ago that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations when Flynn claimed he had not discussed sanctions imposed by Obama against Moscow.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president and his close advisers had been "reviewing and evaluating" that information on a "daily basis for a few weeks" before Trump forced Flynn's resignation.

Before Trump's inauguration, Pence told CBS News' Face the Nation that Flynn and Kislyak did not discuss the U.S. sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

Pence also said Flynn and Kislyak "did not discuss anything having to do" with the Obama administration's decision in late December to expel dozens of Russian diplomats.The Russians were sent home in response to allegations of Russian cyber-spying against Clinton's campaign chief during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Responding Tuesday to reporters' questions about the 18-day gap between the January 26 Trump briefing and Flynn's departure on Monday, Spicer said, "The president concluded he no longer had trust in his national security adviser."

Spicer also said the White House decided there was "nothing wrong" that Flynn had talked with the Russian diplomat, even though Flynn was a private citizen at the time.

WATCH: Spicer says Trump's trust with Flynn "had eroded"

Misled vice president

Flynn acknowledged in his resignation letter that he had "inadvertently briefed" Pence and others with "incomplete information" regarding his phone calls with Kislyak in the weeks before Trump assumed power.

Key opposition Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, are calling for expanded investigations into links between Russia and key Trump aides.

Sen. Hoyer: Russia Can’t ‘Meddle in Our Democracy Without Repercussions

Trump named another retired Army general, Keith Kellogg, as his acting national security adviser.

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