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President Donald Trump blamed "conspiracy theories and blind hatred" — and an attempt to "cover-up" for Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign — in a series of tweets Wednesday morning as he tried to distance himself from any links to Russia.
Trump tweeted that the "fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred," and added that "this Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign."
Trump and Clinton sparred during the campaign over U.S. intelligence reports that said Moscow was involved in the cyberattacks meant to influence the 2016 presidential election — and help Trump win the White House.
Trump for weeks questioned the veracity of those reports before finally acknowledging in a news conference days before he was sworn in that he believes Russia was behind the hacks.
But the White House's connection with the Kremlin — and how deep it runs — remains under scrutiny, which has only ramped up this week.
Ex-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn on Monday night resigned after admitting to misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States in December — before Trump took office.
Those phone calls included talking about the hacking-related sanctions imposed by the Obama administration against Russia for allegedly meddling in the election.
Pence went on news outlets to repeatedly back up Flynn, but the Department of Justice had warned the White House in January about the national security adviser's communications — and that he opened himself up to be the subject of Russian blackmail.
The fallout led Flynn to resign Monday at the request of Trump.
Democrats have called for an independent investigation into the chain of events involving the scandal, but Republicans have so far resisted doing so.
The New York Times raised further questions Tuesday night in a report that said intercepted phone calls by American law enforcement revealed Trump campaign officials had repeated contact with Russian intelligence in the year leading up to the election.
Breaking News Emails
That report sent Brian Fallon, who served as Clinton's presidential campaign spokesman, in a tizzy on Twitter.
"Everything we suspected during the campaign is proving true," he wrote. "This is a colossal scandal."
The Times reported that there is no evidence that there was any cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russians over influencing the election. NBC News has not confirmed the details in the report.
Trump on Wednesday took swipes at the intelligence community for "illegally" leaking information to "failing" newspaper outlets.
He directed other tweets focusing on whether it was the Obama administration that was "too soft" on Russia and calling it "un-American" to leak classified information.
Trump also critiqued the mainstream media's coverage of Flynn.
The president, who asked for Flynn's resignation, said his former national security adviser wasn't treated fairly by the press.
"Gen. Flynn is a wonderful man, I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the 'fake media,' in many cases. And I think it's really a sad thing that he was treated so badly…," Trump said.
Meanwhile, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — who resigned in August amid questions about his ties to pro-Russia interests in Ukraine — told NBC News on Wednesday that "I had no contact knowingly with Russian intelligence officials."
Manafort was reportedly one of the Trump campaign officials whose communications were investigated by the FBI, according to The Times.
"I don't think it's possible I could have even inadvertently had discussions with Russian officials," he added. "It's not like they wear badges. The story is not true."