President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that neither he nor his campaign team had contacts with Russian officials in the run-up to last year’s US election, contradicting an explosive report which he blasted as “fake news.”
Trump also defended Michael Flynn, the national security advisor whose resignation he demanded and received this week, saying Flynn “wasn’t wrong” for holding pre-inauguration phone calls with the Russian ambassador about US sanctions policy.
Instead, Trump accused members of US intelligence agencies of breaking the law by leaking information about the calls.
The new president, in the midst of a turbulent week of back-and-forth accusations about contacts with Russia and his battle with the intelligence community, addressed the concerns during an extraordinary White House press conference.
Asked whether he or anyone on his staff had engaged in contacts with Russia prior to the election, Trump proclaimed: “No, nobody that I know of.”
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” Trump said. “The whole Russia thing is a ruse.”
It was a full-throated denunciation of a bombshell report by the New York Times which said intercepted calls and phone records show Trump aides were in repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials well before the US elections.
“It’s all fake news,” Trump said, unleashing verbal assaults on the media.
Trump stressed that the Times story centered instead on inappropriate action by US intelligence agencies, as he stepped up earlier Thursday attacks in which he vowed to catch “low-life leakers” of potentially classified information that led to the ouster of his national security advisor.