President Donald Trump charged some officials within the FBI and the National Security Agency of behaving "just like Russia” in leaking intelligence information in an effort to undermine his presidency.
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Trump sought to highlight the side of Mike Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser that he says is not receiving proper coverage: the illegal leaks of information to outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Both newspapers ran very negative coverage of Trump during the general election.
The Times ran a story Tuesday, based on leaked information from intelligence officials and anonymous sources, about the Trump campaign having contacts with the Russian government during the election.
"Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former U.S. officials,” The Times reported.
The story then qualified the charge, saying, "The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials,” but also included "other associates of Mr. Trump.”
Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was the only person listed by name, and The Times noted that he and other Trump associates had business dealings in Russia. Further, what was discussed in the phone calls is not known.
Manafort told the paper Tuesday the notion he was somehow colluding with the Russian government or President Vladimir Putin regarding the presidential election is "absurd.”
"I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today,” he added.
The Washington Post also ran multiple stories, based on leaked information from intelligence officials, that Flynn discussed with the Russian ambassador the issue of lifting sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that the real scandal is that government officials entrusted with the nation’s top secrets were illegally leaking the information. No one has accused Flynn of engaging in any illegal activity.
The president praised Bloomberg View reporter Eli Lake for recognizing this aspect of the story.
Lake characterized the leaking of transcripts of private phone conversations by the intelligence community to undermine the new administration as "police state” tactics: i.e., like something Russia would do.
"Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets,” he explained. "This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.”
Lake continued, "In the past it was considered scandalous for senior U.S. officials to even request the identities of U.S. officials incidentally monitored by the government (normally they are redacted from intelligence reports).”
The reporter concluded that Flynn’s resignation was really a "political assassination.”
Trump stated in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that Flynn was "treated very, very unfairly by the media.”
He added the leaking stories are being perpetrated by those, presumably in the government and the media, who don’t like the election results and want to "cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.”