President Donald Trump has blasted journalists for what he perceives to be their unfair treatment of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. His comments arrived shortly after Flynn resigned for discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador and new revelations that members of the Trump campaign had been in constant communication with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential race.
On Feb. 15, Trump held a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president offered his first assessment to Flynn's resignation, said that he believed the former national security adviser had been treated unfairly.
"I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media -- as I call it, the fake media, in many cases," Trump said of Flynn, according to The Hill. "I think it's really a sad thing he was treated so badly."
The president then blasted the news stories that had prompted Flynn's resignation, asserting that they had been derived from illegal leaks from the White House.
"It's criminal action, a criminal act and its been going a long time, before me," Trump said of White House leaks. "But now it's really going on."
Trump concluded: "People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss the Democrats had under [former Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton."
In December 2016, Flynn had made several calls to ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak of Russia after former President Barack Obama's administration slapped new sanctions against the Russian government for allegedly interfering in the presidential election. Flynn had initially denied discussing sanctions with Kislyak, but later said that he could not recall if the topic came up. He resigned on Feb. 13.
On Feb. 13, anonymous officials revealed that former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had informed the Trump White House that the intelligence community had evidence Flynn had not been forthcoming about his phone calls with Kislyak. Yates was removed from her position after she ordered Department of Justice lawyers not to defend Trump's executive action on immigration, The Washington Post reports.
On Feb. 14, anonymous officials disclosed that the intelligence community had intercepted calls between members of the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials throughout 2016.
While the officials said that there was no evidence that the Trump campaign was cooperating with Russia's alleged hacking of both the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign, they did find that campaign members and several close associates of Trump had been in consistent communication with Russian officials throughout the presidential race, The New York Times reports.
On Feb. 14, Democratic lawmakers on the Senate floor called for an independent investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russian intelligence, USA Today reports.
"Every report that suggests deeper ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government needs to be followed up on and verified," said the Senate Minority Leader, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.
On Feb. 15, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called for a bipartisan probe into the matter.
"If there's contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials outside the norm, that's not only big league bad, that's a game changer," Graham told ABC News. "Because if it is true ... any Trump person who was working with the Russians in an unacceptable way also needs to pay a price."
Trump's condemnation of the leaks emerging from his White House strikes a different tone from his praise for the website WikiLeaks during the presidential race. On the campaign trail, Trump had touted embarrassing emails from the Clinton campaign that had been dumped by WikiLeaks -- emails that U.S. intelligence officials believe had been stolen by Russian intelligence.
"I love WikiLeaks," Trump said during a Pennsylvania rally in October 2016. "It's amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet."