Trump Blames Russian Connection ‘Conspiracy Theories’ on Clinton Campaign ‘Cover Up’

Erik Ortiz and Adam Reiss
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during their presidential town hall debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

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."

@realDonaldTrump: 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.

@realDonaldTrump: The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!

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.

More from NBC News:
Putting the pieces of the Russia story together
A timeline of Mike Flynn's rise and fall and the Russia call
Ohio Trump voters, unfazed by Flynn resignation and White House drama, remain faithful

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.

@realDonaldTrump: Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?

@realDonaldTrump: The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by "intelligence" like candy. Very un-American!

Meanwhile, former Trump campaign 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 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."

Trump was scheduled to hold a news conference at noon Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is visiting the White House. The meeting could help shape several policies involving the Middle East, from security to settlements.