President Donald Trump returned to the life he is accustomed to in Washington Sunday, assailing news media reports on White House turmoil linked to investigations of his aides and their ties to Russia.
On his first morning back from a 9-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, Trump declared on Twitter that his “trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!”
Then, he quickly turned to long-standing grievances against the media.
“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” Trump said. “Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names, it is very possible that those sources don’t exist, but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”
He later added a defense of his use of Twitter, saying the media “works hard at disparaging [and] demeaning my use of social media because they don’t want America to hear the real story!”
Trump and White House aides face months of investigations into their alleged ties to Russia officials during the presidential campaign and afterwards. There also are accusations from opposition Democrats that Trump has tried to obstruct justice and curtail the probes.
A special prosecutor is investigating whether Trump aides colluded illegally with Russian officials to help him win the November election, while congressional committees have called on numerous current and former Trump aides to testify.
The White House is bracing for the upcoming congressional testimony of former FBI chief James Comey. Trump fired Comey after allegedly asking him to drop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his close ties to the Kremlin.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, one of the president’s closest advisors, is a new focus of the investigation. While Trump was overseas, The Washington Post reported that Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and tried to set up a secret channel of communications with Moscow. Kushner allegedly met with the ambassador after Trump was elected, but while Barack Obama was still president.
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Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly did not confirm the story when he appeared on Fox News Sunday. But he said, “I think that any channel of communication, back or otherwise, with a country like Russia is a good thing. It doesn’t bother me.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN’s State of the Union that he does not trust the Post story “as far as I can throw it.”
“It makes no sense the ambassador would report back to Moscow on a line he knows we’re monitoring,” Graham said.
But Congressmen Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC’s This Week that the country has to get to the bottom of the Kushner matter.
“If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a back channel and didn’t reveal that, that’s a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of security clearance.”
Kushner’s lawyers say he would be willing to talk with investigators.
Some U.S. news reports, citing Trump aides, say the president could soon establish a White House “war room” to deal with the burgeoning number of questions about his administration’s links to Russia. The reports say Trump has hired a New York lawyer to advise him in handling the various investigations.
Trump has frequently dismissed his campaign’s connection with Moscow as an excuse by Democrats to explain his stunning upset win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But Democrats want to know whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in hacking into unflattering Democratic Party emails and leaking them to the media to embarrass Clinton.