Trump bashes news media, defends start of administration

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned late on Monday after coming under fire over whether he discussed the possibility of lifting United States sanctions on Russian Federation before Trump took office.

Flynn had promised Pence he had not discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by USA officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyev.

But Trump says in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he thinks "it's really a sad thing" that Flynn "was treated so badly".

The Steele dossier also described an enormous proposed payoff by the Russians to Trump and his associates, who were to receive 19 percent of Rosneft, the state-owned Russian energy firm, in exchange for guaranteeing the end of USA sanctions under a Trump presidency.

His spokesman Sean Spicer said he wasn't aware of any such contacts and panned the Times report for relying on "unnamed sources". On Nov. 17 President-elect Trump offered Flynn the job of national security adviser.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, both known as levelheaded technocrats, stand to fill some of the void.

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Trump repeatedly tried to steer questions away from his and his advisers' potential ties with Russian Federation, saying attention should rather be focused on why a steady stream of classified information is making its way into news reports.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, continue to stonewall any investigation of Russia's influence over the Trump administration.

Just last week, CNN reported that US intelligence officials have confirmed - based on American communications intercepts - that some conversations among Russian officials and others occurred exactly as described in the dossier. While he may not have incurred criminal liability by lying to the vice president, he's in trouble if he lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation - which is investigating the Russian entanglements of Flynn and others. "We have serious concerns about the potential inadequate protection of classified information here", Reps.

The revelation Flynn was personally approached by federal investigators comes one day after his resignation and similar reveals officials at the Department of Justice, including then-acting attorney general Sally Yates, believed the pre-inaugural January 26 call over sanctions had opened up Flynn to the possibility of blackmail.

"This was an act of trust - whether or not he misled the vice president was the issue and that was ultimately what led to the president asking for and accepting the resignation of Gen. Flynn", Spicer said.

Flynn resigned on Monday after news reports that he withheld information from Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with Kislyak.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto scrapped plans to meet his counterpart in Washington during the second week of Trump's presidency after Trump tweeted that Mexico should cancel the meeting if it was not prepared to pay for his proposed border wall. Spicer says the ambassador texted Flynn back, "wishing him a Merry Christmas as well".

The officials and two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed the Justice Department warnings on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Flynn was an early advocate for Trump, unlike others in the administration, such as Steve Bannon, who pledged support only after Trump secured the Republican nomination.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russian Federation carried out cyberattacks on Democratic Party officials created to undermine Hillary Clinton.

"Absolutely not; no, no, no", Spicer said.

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