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'Very, Very Unfair:' Trump Slams Intelligence Officials On Treatment Of Michael Flynn

MOSCOW (CBSNewYork/AP) - President Donald Trump blasted the media Wednesday for its coverage of his former national security advisor, as one of his top cabinet picks withdrew his nomination.

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reported, Andrew Puzder has taken his name out of contention for Labor Secretary -- it appears that his support among Republicans was eroding.

Puzder had been set to be grilled on Capitol Hill on Thursday, over his nomination to be Labor Secretary, but a source said 'he's tired of the abuse,' and has dropped out.

Democrats have attacked Puzder for his position on labor issues as well as the fact that he employed an undocumented housekeeper.

"He's been successful in making money but he has put profits ahead of people and his actions are disqualifiers for this position," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) said.

U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress will continue to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election, even after President Trump fired his national security adviser for providing inaccurate accounts of his contacts with the Russian ambassador last year.

Democrats argue that an independent investigation is the best way to get answers about the Trump administration's ties to Russia.

"Every hour that goes by, more and more questions are raised. Every White House press briefing and early morning tweet seemingly introduces new inconsistencies and contradictions that demand a full accounting," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.

But Republican leaders continue to refuse to consider this option and say the three congressional investigations underway are enough.

Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned late Monday. The White House said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

In a resignation letter, Flynn said he gave Pence and others "incomplete information" about his calls with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. The vice president, apparently relying on information from Flynn, initially said the national security adviser had not discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, though Flynn later conceded the issue may have come up.

In the letter, he also blamed "the fast pace of events" during the presidential transition for causing him to "inadvertently leave out key details of phone calls with the Russian ambassador prior to inauguration."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there was "exhaustive and extensive questioning" of Flynn on multiple occasions over his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., and the Justice Department informed the White House on Jan. 26 about Flynn's conversations during the transition.

Spicer said Tuesday that Flynn either mislead Vice President Mike Pence and others, or forgot "critical details" about his call with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., creating "a critical mass and an unsustainable situation."

All of this comes amid New York Times report released Wednesday morning saying Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

According to the Times, American intelligence agencies looked into whether the Trump campaign was cooperating with the Russians on their attempts to influence the election -- including hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Speaking at a press conference Wedneasday, Trump slammed intelligence officials and the media Wednesday over what he called "very, very unfair" treatment of his ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and for "illegally leaked" information about reported contacts between his campaign advisers and Russian officials.

"General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he has been treated very unfairly by the media. As I call it the fake media in many cases, and I think it's really a sad thing that he was treated so badly," Trump said.

Trump responded to the report on Twitter Wednesday, saying  "the fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred."

The Times reports that so far, officials interviewed have found no evidence of such cooperation.

"The real scandal here is that classified information is very illegally given out by "intelligence" like candy," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "Very un-American!"

Trump also took a jab at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign," Trump said on Twitter Wednesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied reports of intercepted phone calls between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump's presidential campaign.

The New York Times said that the Russians made contact with Paul Manafort, who briefly served as Trump's campaign chairman. Current and former U.S. officials interviewed by the Times declined to identify other Trump associates contacted by the Russians.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, pointed to the anonymity of the sources, saying that the reports "are not based on any facts, do not point to actual facts.''

There is a Russian spy ship patrolling off the east coast. It's known as AGI. It made a port call in Cuba and has been working its way up the east coast. The ship is currently off the coast of Delaware -- in international waters, and was expected to continue north until it gets to the sub base at New London, Connecticut to turn around and head south towards Cuba.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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