WASHINGTON, Feb 16, 2017 (BSS/AFP) - US President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to catch those responsible for intelligence leaks that led to the ouster of his national security advisor over contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington.
"The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!" Trump declared in an early morning tweet, the latest in a series of Twitter attacks that have portrayed the leaks as part of a campaign to undermine his administration.
"Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!"
The president on Wednesday decried the treatment of his ousted national security advisor, Mike Flynn, even though Trump himself fired the retired general for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Instead Trump lashed out at the leaks, specifically pointing the finger at the National Security Agency and the FBI as a possible source of the leaks and suggesting that the intelligence agencies were seeking to undermine him.
"It's criminal actions, criminal act, and it's been going on for a long time -- before me," Trump said at a White House news conference with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
"But now it's really going on, and people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton."
Despite Trump's harsh tone on the leaks, White House officials have confirmed that Flynn discussed US sanctions against Russia with Kislyak on the same day that former president Barack Obama was announcing the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.
But they said Flynn was not fired for the call to Kislyak, but for misleading Pence about the nature of the discussions.
US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia had intervened in the US elections to try to favor Trump, who went on to win in an upset against Clinton.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that US intelligence officials have withheld sensitive information on sources and methods from the president out of concern it could be leaked or compromised.
A White House official rejected the report, saying "there is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening."