In Summary
  • 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."
  • In his wide-ranging presser Trump defended his political agenda, and said that next week he will introduce an amended version of the much-criticized travel ban now caught up in court.

WASHINGTON

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.

TURBULENT WEEK

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.

LOW-LIFE LEAKERS

"It's all fake news," Trump said, unleashing verbal assaults on the media.

Trump stressed that the Times story centred 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.

"Those are criminal leaks" by people angry about Democrat Hillary Clinton's loss, he told reporters, as he revealed he has asked the Justice Department to investigate the disclosures.

"The people that gave out the information to the press should be ashamed of themselves."

US SNACTIONS ON RUSSIA

The Washington Post meanwhile reported that current and former US officials said Flynn denied to FBI agents that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with Moscow's ambassador.

Should it turn out that he discussed the sanctions, as Trump appears to believe he did, Flynn could be in legal jeopardy because lying to the FBI is a felony.

"What he did wasn't wrong," Trump stressed.

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