President Trump suggested Thursday that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate media companies that he believes are reporting information that is “just made up.”
The president's tweet comes one day after leaders of the committee announced that their findings confirm the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. They also warned that Russian operatives may try to continue to interfere in future elections, including the midterms next year and the 2020 presidential election.
The committee leaders — Sens. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) — said they have reached no conclusion on whether Trump's campaign was colluding with the Russians. That investigation will continue.
On Thursday, Burr said the committee is "not going to investigate news organizations," but that some of the committee's findings during the Russia probe contradict some media reports.
“We will use the findings of our report to let the American people hold every news organization accountable for what they portrayed as fact, in many cases without sources — at least, no sources that would admit to it,” Burr told Politico. “And I think, when we finish our report, we will find that quite a few news organizations ran stories that were not factual.”
At a news briefing Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn't directly say if the president actually wants a congressional investigation of the media — but she did say that “the president has a great frustration with the fact that a lot of the times you have inaccurate information that's being presented as factual.”
She said the president's concerns are “a real concern, and something that certainly should be looked at.” In particular, Sanders noted that some studies have found that only 5 percent of media coverage of the president and his administration has been positive, a percentage that she said should be much higher given all of the positive things happening in the country.
“The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment, but with the First Amendment ... with those freedoms also come responsibilities,” Sanders said. “And you have a responsibility to tell the truth, to be accurate.”
Trump often lashes out at the media following news reports that cast him in a bad light, even if the reporting is confirmed by numerous sources. This week Trump is incensed that NBC News reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this summer because he had grown frustrated with policy disputes, clashes with the White House and a politicized speech Trump gave to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led. The point in the article that has generated the most buzz: After a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon, Tillerson openly disparaged the president and called him a “moron.” NBC News attributes this nugget to “three officials familiar with the incident.”
Tillerson held an impromptu news briefing Wednesday morning to praise the president and attack the article, although he did not directly deny calling the president a moron. Trump has repeatedly accused NBC of fabricating the information. NBC said it stands by its reporting.
As Trump left a hospital in Las Vegas on Wednesday after visiting victims of Sunday night's mass shooting, he told reporters: “It was a totally phony story. ... It was made up; it was made up by NBC. They just made it up.” Trump added that he was “very honored” by Tillerson's comments and that he has “total confidence in Rex.”
On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted: “Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign. This is Fake News put out by @NBCNews. Low news and reporting standards. No verification from me.”