Donald Trump.  Picture: REUTERS
Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

Washington — US President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed the news media and leaks in the US intelligence community for his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s downfall.

"He’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the fake media, in many cases," Trump said on Wednesday in a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington. "I think it’s really a sad thing that he’s been treated so badly."

Trump asked for — and received — Flynn’s resignation on Monday after the president and Vice-President Mike Pence lost confidence in his credibility because he misled them about a conversation with a Russian envoy, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday.

Leading congressional Republicans on Wednesday joined calls by Democrats for a deeper look at relationships between President Trump’s team and Russian government officials, indicating a growing sense of political peril within the party as new reports surfaced of extensive contacts between Trump surrogates and Russian intelligence figures.

Trump, who in his campaign regularly cited WikiLeaks’ publication of Democratic Party e-mails stolen by Russian hackers, said Flynn was done in by material that was "illegally, I stress that, illegally leaked."

"Very, very unfair," he said.

He fulminated against the mainstream media and claimed the information on Flynn’s contacts was disclosed "to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton". He praised Flynn as "a wonderful man".

Trump did not mention his own role in Flynn’s removal or the controversy that preceded it. He avoided the major wire services, television networks and newspapers at his news conference, calling only on two politically conservative news outlets, the Christian Broadcasting Network and Townhall.com. Neither of the two organisation’s representatives asked directly about Flynn’s dismissal or the reports on Trump associates’ contacts with Russia.

Trump ignored shouted questions after the news conference concluded.

The New York Times reported late Tuesday that Trump campaign aides and associates "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before" the November 2016 election, citing four current and former US officials the newspaper did not identify. It is unclear if the talks pertained to Trump personally, and the Times reported that there’s been no evidence uncovered that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian attempts to influence the election.

US intelligence agencies and the FBI are conducting multiple investigations to determine the full extent of contacts Trump associates had with Russia during and after the 2016 campaign, according to four national security officials with knowledge of the matter.

Bloomberg

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