President Donald Trump said reports that members of his campaign team had multiple contacts with Russian officials during his presidential campaign are "fake news" and called the storyline "fabricated" by those bitter over Hillary Clinton’s election loss.
“It’s all fake news,” Trump told reporters at a press conference in the East Room of the White House on Thursday, calling the matter a “fabricated deal to make up for the loss of the Democrats.”
The president’s remarks came after The New York Times reported this week that members of Trump’s campaign had multiple contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Sources told ABC News that Trump associates had contact with suspected Russian intelligence officials in the lead-up to the election.
Though the president refuted the reporting as fake news, he told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that suspected leaks coming from inside the government are real.
"Well, the leaks are real. You are the one that wrote about them and reported them. The leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it. And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake," Trump said.
He has instructed the Justice Department to look into the suspected leaks, which he has called "illegal." Congressional Republicans have also called for the DOJ inspector general to look into the potential mishandling of classified information within the law enforcement agency.
When another reporter followed up to ask if any members of Trump’s campaign had contacts with Russian officials, the president said definitively that he was not aware of any such contacts.
"No, no, nobody that I know of," Trump said.
He went on to say that neither he nor his former campaign manager Pual Manafort had contact with Russia.
"Look, how many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse," the president said.
"I have nothing to do with Russia. No person that I deal with does. Manafort totally denied it. People knew he was a consultant in that part of the world but not for Russia — I think people having to do with Ukraine or whoever, but people knew that. Everybody knew that."