President Donald Trump has accused the Democratic Party of fabricating the intelligence community consensus that the Russian government had interfered in the 2016 election. The president's comments arrive after a series of leaks from his administration resulted in the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the revelation that members of the campaign had been in constant communication with Russian intelligence officials throughout 2016.
On Feb. 16, Trump took to social media to assert that Democrats had manufactured the media narrative that Russia had committed cyber espionage during the 2016 presidential race to damage former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign, The Hill reports.
"The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story -- RUSSIA," Trump tweeted out.
The president proceeded to blast journalistic outlets, asserting that the media falsifies sources.
"FAKE NEWS media, which makes up stories and 'sources,' is far more effective than the discredited Democrats -- but they are fading fast!" Trump tweeted.
The president's comments mark a departure from his stance in January. During his only press conference as president-elect, Trump said that he agreed with the intelligence community's assessment that Russia had hacked and leaked emails from both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign.
"As far as hacking, I think it was Russia," Trump said on Jan. 11. The president added: "I think we also get hacked by other countries and people."
Trump's latest assertions arrive after a series of leaks have revealed contacts between his presidential campaign and Russian intelligence officials.
On Feb. 9, nine anonymous officials told The Washington Post that Flynn had discussed current sanctions against Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the substance of his phone calls with Kislyak and resigned on Feb. 13.
On Feb. 14, four anonymous officials disclosed to The New York Times that several members of Trump's campaign had been in constant communication with Russian intelligence officials throughout 2016. They added that there was no evidence that the Trump campaign officials had collaborated with Russian hacking of the Clinton campaign in any way.
On Feb. 15, former ethics lawyer Richard Painter of the Bush administration asserted that the recent revelations could cause an explosive scandal for the Trump White House.
"This is a heck of a lot bigger deal than what initially happened in Watergate," Painter told Policymic. "This is a 10 right out of the starting gate because it involves our national security and a foreign power. ... [We need to find out] what people inside the Trump campaign and the Trump administration knew and whether there was cooperation."
During a press conference on Feb. 16, Trump expanded on his accusations made earlier that day on social media that the media was engineering false reports on his administration. The president did not deny the veracity of the leaked information but asserted that how reporters presented the stories was fake.
"The leaks are absolutely real," Trump said, according to Talking Points Memo. "The news is fake, because so much of the news is fake. ... The tone is such hatred."