WASHINGTON — Facing renewed questions and investigations about contacts between his associates and Russia over last year's election, President Trump denounced "conspiracy theories" that he claims are being spun by the media and illegal intelligence leaks.
"The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred," Trump said during a morning tweet storm. "@MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!"
This and other tweets came as The New York Times reported that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump's campaign team "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election" in which Russia is accused of interfering via the hacking of Democratic officials.
In another tweet, Trump accused his critics of scandal-mongering out of deference to defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
"This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign," Trump said.
Trump also complained about news leaks in a third tweet: "Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia."
The Russia story revived after Trump sought the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for misleading Vice President Pence and other officials about a phone conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
The Flynn resignation Monday re-opened questions about the relationship between Trump and his aides and the Russians, the subject of investigation by the FBI and congressional committees.
Trump appeared to defend Flynn in another Wednesday morning tweet. He praised journalist Eli Lake for an article entitled "The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn," a piece that discussed suspected intelligence leaks targeting the former national security adviser.
Said Trump: "Thank you to Eli Lake of The Bloomberg View - 'The NSA (National Security Administration) & FBI...should not interfere in our politics...and is' Very serious situation for USA."
In yet another tweet, Trump contrasted his Russia policy with that of predecessor Barack Obama.
"Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?" Trump said.
In calling for a stepped-up investigation of Trump and Russia, Democratic lawmakers are renewing demands that Trump release his tax returns, saying they would show any financial relationship with Russia.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted Tuesday: "Your nightly reminder that at the center of this strengthening hurricane are the tax returns."
A prominent Republican — Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — has also expressed concern about the Russia story.
"The question is whether the White House is going to be able to stabilize itself," Corker told MSNBC's Morning Joe.
This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Thank you to Eli Lake of The Bloomberg View - "The NSA & FBI...should not interfere in our politics...and is" Very serious situation for USA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Copyright 2017 USA TODAY