President Donald Trump returned to the life he is accustomed to in Washington on Sunday, assailing the news media reporting the turmoil inside his White House, and the investigation of his aides and their links to Russia.
On his first morning back from a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, Trump tapped out a string of comments on his Twitter account, declaring that his “trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!”
Yet, he quickly pivoted to long-standing grievances against the mainstream U.S. 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 complained that a special election last week for a House of Representatives seat in the western state of Montana was “such a big deal” for Democrats and news media “until the Republican won.”
Trump said the victory, which came a day after Republican Greg Gianforte was accused of misdemeanor assault for allegedly body-slamming a reporter to the ground, “was poorly covered.” Trump described the Gianforte victory as a “big win in Montana for Republicans!”
As they return to the U.S. after days on the international stage, Trump and White House aides face the prospect of weeks and months of investigations into their alleged ties to Russian officials during the real estate mogul’s long run for the presidency and accusations from opposition Democrats that he 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 testimony soon of James Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Trump fired even as he was heading the probe into the Trump campaign connection with Russia. Trump said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” as he ousted Comey, who was in the fourth year of a 10-year term as head of the country’s top criminal investigative agency.
Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, a key White House adviser, is a new focus of the investigation. While Trump was overseas, U.S. news media accounts said that Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, another of his White advisers, tried to set up a secret channel of communications with Moscow officials in the weeks before Trump took office in late January.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, while not confirming the Kushner report, told Fox News on Sunday, “I think that any channel of communication back or otherwise, with a country like Russia is a good thing. It doesn’t bother me.”
Trump aides, according to several U.S. news accounts in recent days, say that he could soon establish a “war room” inside the White House to deal with the burgeoning number of questions about his aides’ links to Russia and that he has hired a New York lawyer to advise him in handling the various investigations.
Trump also could shake up his top White House staff, to present a better face to the public and advance his stalled legislative agenda in Congress.
Trump has frequently dismissed his campaign’s connection with Moscow as an excuse made up by Democrats to explain his stunning upset win for the White House over Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state.
But the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Moscow directed hacking into the computer of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, and the subsequent release by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks of thousands of his emails in the weeks leading up to the election. All of that served to cast an embarrassing behind-the-scenes look at efforts by Democratic operatives to help Clinton win her party’s presidential nomination.