Donald Trump deflects Michael Flynn fallout as Andrew Puzder bows out
President Trump, with investigations looming in Congress and the FBI, sought to divert attention from the Michael Flynn fallout yesterday by blaming U.S. intelligence agencies and the “fake news media,” slamming his Democratic rivals, and announcing a campaign-style rally for this weekend.
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” Trump tweeted yesterday. “Very un-American!”
Trump fumed that “illegally leaked” documents about Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak amounted to a “criminal act,” during a White House news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But the Trump administration insisted just a day earlier that the leaked conversation led to an “erosion of trust” and Flynn’s forced resignation. Questions still remain about whether the ousted national security adviser acted independently or was directed to talk about sanctions with Kislyak, as well as why Trump waited 18 days to dismiss Flynn after first learning he had misled Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump instead hopes to put the scandal in his rearview — literally — by leaving Washington, D.C., Saturday for a campaign-style “rally” at the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport, on his way to another weekend at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump draws energy from his rallies and freely riffs on any topics of his choosing without having to face questioning or pushback from the media. The rallies also allow him to demonstrate that his policies enjoy popular support with his backers.
He also targeted both former President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Twitter. He slammed an anonymously sourced New York Times story claiming that officials on his campaign had repeated contact with Russian intelligence agents during the election season.
“This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign,” he tweeted.
Besides attacking Obamacare, Trump also blasted the former president for being too weak on Russian President Vladimir Putin while in office.
“Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted. “Was Obama too soft on Russia?”
But the scrutiny only threatened to intensify on the Flynn scandal yesterday with probes moving forward by both law enforcement and Congress.
The FBI is pursuing two parallel investigations, according to Bloomberg: the cyberhacking of Democratic groups during the presidential election, and whether Russian espionage involved communication and collusion with U.S. officials.
Meanwhile, the Senate intelligence committee, controlled by Republicans, will explore allegations of Russian interference in the election and likely expand to involve Flynn’s discussions of sanctions with Russia. Flynn is expected to be called to testify.
Those investigations are on top of two other incidents also being probed in the young administration — the Office of Government Ethics determined there is “strong reason to believe” senior adviser Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics rules when she told Americans to buy items from Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. And the Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, is looking into whether Trump discussed sensitive information at Mar-a-Lago after a North Korean missile launch last weekend.
Adding to the White House turmoil, Trump’s pick as labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew yesterday after failing to earn the backing of enough Republican senators to secure confirmation.