Trump Lashes Out at Media Over Russia "Conspiracy Theories"

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A New York Times report claims members of Trump’s campaign had repeated contacts with Russian officials in the year before the U.S. presidential election.

President Donald Trump continued his attack on the "fake news media" early Wednesday morning, citing collective "conspiracy theories" and "blind hatred" amid continuing controversy surrounding his camp's alleged involvement with Russia ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Trump kicked off a series of tweets early Wednesday attacking MSNBC and CNN for their coverage of Michael Flynn's resignation as Trump's national security adviser. Flynn resigned Monday night after misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his communications with Russia during Trump's transition.

"The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!" Trump tweeted.

He then turned blame to President Obama's administration, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the intelligence committee amid a new report of U.S. agencies intercepting phone calls made ahead of the presidential election from members of Trump's campaign team and Russian intelligence officials.

"This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign," he denounced. "Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia."

He added, "Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?"

On Tuesday night, The New York Times published a report claiming phone records and intercepted calls show Trump campaign members and associates having "repeated" contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year ahead of the 2016 election.

U.S. intelligence agencies collected the information around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia attempted to meddle in the U.S. election by hacking into the DNC, the Times reports. The report identifies Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as one of the associates who made the alleged calls. Manafort denied the claims to the Times, saying he has "never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers."

Officials who spoke with the Times anonymously said they had not uncovered any evidence of the Trump campaign cooperating with the Russians on any attempts to influence the election.

The intercepted calls are different from the wiretapped conversations last year between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., the Times said. (The White House did not immediately return THR's request for comment on the Times story.)

U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress will continue to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election even after Flynn's exit, according to the Associated Press.

On Wednesday morning, CNN backed the Times story with its own report, which claims both Trump and then-President Obama were briefed on the communications between Trump associates, allegedly including Manafort and Flynn, and suspected Russian operatives.

The CNN report added that while talks between campaign staff and foreign officials is not unusual, the discovered communications stood out to the U.S. intelligence committees due to their frequency.

Trump ended his Wednesday series of tweets by saying the "real scandal" is the leaked intelligence information.

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

During a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Wednesday, Trump addressed the "fake media" treatment of Flynn, which he characterized as "very, very unfair."

Calling him a "wonderful man," Trump said. "It's really a sad thing" that Flynn "was treated so badly."

He also condemned those who "illegally leaked" information to the press, describing it as a "criminal act."

"It's been going on a long time, before me, but now it's really going on," Trump said. "People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton."

Feb. 15, 1:30 p.m. ET: Updated with joint press conference.

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