President Donald Trump attacked major media, U.S. intelligence agencies and former president Barack Obama on Wednesday, after reports that his campaign had contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the election campaign.
The New York Times reported that Trump campaign staff, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, had “repeated contacts” with senior Russian intelligence officials during the year before his surprise victory in the November presidential election.
The report was attributed to current and former US officials and cited phone records and intercepted calls that it said were part of an FBI investigation into links between Trump associates and the Russian government.
The officials said they had seen no evidence so far, the Times reported, that Trump’s campaign cooperated with the Russians on hacking of Democratic Party emails, resulting in revelations that embarassed opposing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump tweeted:“This Russian connection nonsense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”
The New York Times report followed Monday’s resignation of White House national security advisor Michael Flynn, after admitting that he had made misleading statements about contacts with Russia in December during Trump’s presidential transition.
Trump accused “the fake news media” – a familiar refrain since he took office January 20 – of “going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred.”
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” he tweeted.
He alleged that “information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).”
Trump tried to counter accusations that he is sympathetic to Putin by pointing out that the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea was seized when Obama was in the White House.
“Was Obama too soft on Russia?” he asked.
The CIA, FBI and National Security Agency all have expressed “high confidence” that Putin sought to influence the US election, with Russian actions such as hacking Democratic Party targets.