Fri, Feb 17, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Trump slams leaks, media over Flynn

LABOR SECRETARY:Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination after Senate Republicans balked at supporting him, in part over delayed tax payments


US President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed the media and “illegally leaked” intelligence information for bringing down his national security adviser Michael Flynn, one day after the White House said Trump had asked Flynn to resign because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia.

Flynn’s ouster has sparked a new swirl of controversy over Trump’s potential ties to Moscow.

Flynn resigned on Monday night — at the behest of Trump, the White House later said — after reports that he had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US before the inauguration, despite previously denying those conversations to Pence and other top officials.

However, in Trump’s first public comments on Flynn, he appeared to side with his former aide, saying it was “really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”

Trump is said to favor US Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, as his next national security adviser, a White House official said.

Harward met with top White House officials last week and has the backing of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Questions about Russia deepened late on Tuesday when the New York Times reported that US agencies had intercepted telephone calls last year between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s presidential campaign team.

Current and former US officials who spoke to the Times anonymously said they found no evidence that the Trump campaign was working with the Russians on hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

Trump criticized what he called the “criminal act” of leaking information.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted that “classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”

He ignored shouted questions about whether his advisers were in touch with Russian officials.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he was not aware of any such contacts and panned the Times report for relying on “unnamed sources.”

Democrats called for an independent investigation into Trump’s Russia ties and urged Republicans to join them.

“This is a moment for Republicans to put country ahead of party,” US Senator Chris Murphy said. “There’s only one or two times like this in your political career where you face a moment like this where what’s good for your country may not be good for your party.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s nominee for labor secretary on Wednesday abruptly withdrew his nomination after Senate Republicans balked at supporting him, in part over taxes he belatedly paid on a former housekeeper not authorized to work in the nation.

Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder issued a short statement abandoning the effort, saying he was “honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor.”

Spicer declined to comment on possible replacements, but said late on Wednesday that the White House had seen the writing on the wall.

“We know how to count,” he said.

Puzder’s nomination became part of a streak of contentious confirmation battles and haphazard White House actions, including a botched rollout of Trump’s executive order on refugees and the ouster of Flynn.

US Senator Lamar Alexander, who would have chaired Puzder’s confirmation hearing yesterday, issued a terse statement saying the nominee would have made an “excellent” labor secretary, but “I respect his decision” to quit pursuing the post.

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