On Russia, Trump Administration Disputes, Distracts: Analysis | NBC New York
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

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On Russia, Trump Administration Disputes, Distracts: Analysis

The White House has not pointed to any hard evidence to support its allegations, the latest involving a former national security adviser

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    NEWSLETTERS

    FBI Director James Comey spoke during the first public hearing of a congressional inquiry into ties between Russia and the U.S. election, including possible ties to the Trump campaign. 

    “The FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said on March 20. “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” 

    (Published Monday, March 20, 2017)

    After weeks on the defensive, President Donald Trump has stepped up his efforts to dispute, downplay and distract from revelations stemming from the investigations into the Kremlin's interference in last year's election and possible Russian ties to his campaign associates.

    The White House says the real story is not about Russia — it's about how Obama administration officials allegedly leaked and mishandled classified material about Americans. Trump and his aides have accused former officials of inappropriately disclosing — or "unmasking" — the names of Trump associates whose conversations were picked up by U.S. intelligences agencies.

    "Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends," Trump tweeted Monday. 'Spied on before nomination.' The real story."

    The White House has not pointed to any hard evidence to support such allegations, and instead has relied on media reports from some of the same publications Trump derides as "fake news."

    Trump Claims, Without Proof, That Obama Wire-Tapped Him

    [NATL] Trump Claims, Without Proof, That Obama Wire-Tapped Him

    President Donald Trump is at the center of another storm of controversy, this time accusing his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of tapping his phones before the 2016 election. The president's claim, made on Twitter, comes in the middle of a Congressional investigation into how deeply Russia meddled with the election. Mr. Trump offered no proof to back the claim, Obama strongly denies the claim, and James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, said there was no secret court order to tap Mr. Trump's phones. 

    (Published Monday, March 6, 2017)

    The truth is buried somewhere in classified material that is illegal to disclose. Here's a look at what the White House believes is the real story.

    THE FLYNN AFFAIR
    Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn following news reports that Flynn misled the White House about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. But the White House says the problem is that Flynn's conversations were in the news at all.

    "The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?" Trump tweeted after firing Flynn in February.

    The White House has called for investigations into the disclosure of multiple intercepted conversations that Flynn had with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration. The government routinely monitors the communications of foreign officials in the U.S. It's illegal to publicly disclose such classified information.

    Officially, the White House said Flynn was forced to resign because he had given inaccurate descriptions of the discussions to Vice President Mike Pence and others in the White House. But Trump has continued to defend Flynn, suggesting he was only fired because information about his contacts came out in the media.

    "Michael Flynn, Gen. Flynn is a wonderful man," Trump said. "I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media."

    Manafort Secretly Worked for Russian Billionaire: Report

    [NATL] Manafort Secretly Worked for Russian Billionaire: Report

    An Associated Press investigation found that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The investigation cites a memo purportedly written by Manafort, who acknowledged to NBC News that he worked for the billionaire but said he did not represent Russian political interests.

    (Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017)

    THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
    White House officials say some Obama holdovers are part of a so-called deep state out to tear Trump down.

    Last week, the White House latched onto a month-old television interview from an Obama administration official who said she encouraged congressional aides to gather as much information on Russia as possible before the inauguration.

    Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, said she feared that information "would disappear" after President Barack Obama left office. She was no longer in government at the time, having left the Pentagon about a year before the election.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer called Farkas' comments "devastating" and said they "raised serious concerns on whether or not there was an organized and widespread effort by the Obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive intelligence information for political purposes."

    On Monday, Spicer suggested there should be more interest in a Bloomberg report in which anonymous U.S. officials said that Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, asked for the identities of people related to Trump's campaign and transition dozens of times.

    Spicer remarked that he was "somewhat intrigued by the lack of interest" in the Rice revelations. But he added: "I do think that it's interesting, the level, or lack thereof, of interest in this subject."

    Spicer: Paul Manafort Played 'Very Limited' Role in Campaign

    [NATL] Spicer: Ex-Trump Campaign Chief Paul Manafort Played 'Very Limited' Role in Campaign

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer answers a question from the White House press corps about President Donald Trump's statement that he is unaware of any contact between his campaign associates and Russia. Paul Manafort was, for several months, the chairman of Trump’s campaign.

    (Published Monday, March 20, 2017)

    As national security adviser, Rice would have regularly received intelligence reports and been able to request the identities of Americans whose communications were intercepted.

    THE HILL WEIGHS IN
    The White House has embraced a top Republican's assertion that information about Trump associates were improperly spread around the government in the final days of the Obama administration. It appears the White House played a role in helping House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., acquire some of that information.

    Nunes announced last week that he had seen intelligence reports showing that Trump aides' communications were picked up through routine surveillance. But he said their identities may have been improperly revealed. The California congressman later said he viewed the reports at the White House.

    The White House contends that Nunes' information — which has not been made public — validates Trump's explosive claim that his predecessor wiretapped his New York skyscraper. Nunes has disputed that but still says he found the reports "troubling."

    The White House's apparent involvement in helping Nunes access the information has overshadowed what Trump officials contend are real concerns about how much information about Americans is disseminated in intelligence reports. Trump has asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to include the matter in their Russia investigations.

    CAMPAIGN MODE
    Trump won the election, but thinks it's his vanquished opponent whose ties to Russia should be investigated.

    Senate Health Bill Revised Again in Face of Opposition

    [NATL] Senate Health Bill Revised Again in Face of Opposition

    Facing a self-imposed deadline to vote on a health care legislation before the July 4th recess, Senate Republicans find themselves scraping for enough votes to pass their version of the bill. Republican leaders on Monday revised portions of the bill aimed at deterring people from dropping health insurance.

    (Published Monday, June 26, 2017)

    Some of the White House's allegations against Clinton stem from her four years as secretary of state, a role that gave her ample reasons to have frequent contacts with Russia.

    To deflect questions about Trump's friendly rhetoric toward Russia, the White House points to the fact that Clinton was a central figure in the Obama administration's attempt to "reset" relations with Moscow — an effort that crumbled after Vladimir Putin took back the presidency.

    "When you compare the two sides in terms of who's actually engaging with Russia, trying to strengthen them, trying to act with them, trying to interact with them, it is night and day between our actions and her actions," Spicer said.

    Rex Tillerson, Trump's secretary of state, has deep ties to Russia from his time running ExxonMobil and cutting oil deals with Moscow.

    The White House has also tried to link Clinton to Russia's purchase of a controlling stake in a mining company with operations in the U.S., arguing that she was responsible for "selling off one-fifth of our country's uranium."

    The Clinton-led State Department was among nine U.S. government agencies that had to approve the purchase of Uranium One. According to Politifact, some investors in the company had relationships with former President Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation. However, the fact checking site says most of those donations occurred well before Clinton became secretary of state and was in position to have a say in the agreement.

    Supreme Court Reinstates Much of Trump’s Travel Ban

    [NATL] Supreme Court Reinstates Much of Trump’s Travel Ban

    The Supreme Court reinstated parts of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban and announced it will hear arguments on the case in October.

    (Published Monday, June 26, 2017)