Senate Dems to meet on Flynn, Trump Russia ties

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. Democrats are calling for an investigation into President Donald Trump's relationship with Russia, including when Trump learned that his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had discussed U.S. sanctions with a Russian diplomat.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EST):

10:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to host Sen. Marco Rubio and his wife for dinner Wednesday.

The White House said Rubio and his wife Jeanette are expected to join the Trumps at 6:30 p.m.

The Florida senator was one of the large field of Republicans Trump beat out on his way to the White House. Trump famously dubbed him “little Marco” during the primary battle.

Trump hosted another 2016 candidate Tuesday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat came to the White House for lunch.

Related: Russian spy ship seen patrolling off Connecticut coast

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9 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called a meeting of Democratic senators to discuss the resignation of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser and published reports about contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Another leading Democrat, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, is pressing the Democrats’ case for an independent investigation. He and other Democrats say that’s the best way to answer questions about the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.

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

Durbin tells MSNBC that it’s a “graveyard” for investigations when congressional intelligence committees get involved because their work is largely done outside of public view.

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8 a.m.

President Donald Trump appears to be faulting the Obama administration for being “too soft” on Russia, pointing to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine on President Barack Obama’s watch.

He tweeted, “Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?”

In that and a series of other morning tweets Wednesday, Trump appeared to be trying to distance himself from any appearance of close ties with Russia following published reports that U.S. agencies had intercepted phone calls last year between Russian intelligence officials and his 2016 campaign team.

Trump denounced “this Russian connection non-sense” as “merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”

Trump’s remarks come on the heels of the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, after it was revealed that he’d reportedly discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. before Trump was sworn in.

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6:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is renewing his attack on the “fake news media” amid the widening controversy surrounding the ouster of his national security adviser and talk of congressional investigations of purported Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election last year.

Trump posted a pre-dawn message on his verified Twitter account Wednesday complaining, “The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred.” He said, “This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”

He added in the post that “@MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!”

The latest tweet follows a pattern of social media messages that Trump has sent, chastising news organizations both during his campaign for the White House and in the more than three weeks since his inauguration.

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6:30 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is likening President Donald Trump to Andrew Jackson, saying he’s what the American people wanted when they elected him.

The Kentucky Republican tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that voters “wanted a different kind of president.” He adds that “I like what he’s doing,” particularly his emphasis on lessening government regulation of business.

McConnell also said he considers Neil Gorsuch, the man Trump picked to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, to be “the single best circuit court judge in the nation.”

He did disagree with Trump, who has asserted that millions of illegal votes in the election caused him to lose the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton. “There is voter fraud in the country,” McConnell said. “But there is no evidence that there was significant enough vote fraud to affect the outcome of the election.”

“I’m more interested in what he’s doing than what he’s tweeting,” McConnell said.

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3:15 a.m.

Just six days into his presidency, Donald Trump was informed his national security adviser had misled his vice president about contacts with Russia. Trump kept his No. 2 in the dark and waited nearly three weeks before ousting the aide, Michael Flynn, citing a slow but steady erosion of trust, White House officials said.

Flynn was interviewed by the FBI about his telephone conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., a sign his ties to Russia had caught the attention of law enforcement officials.

But in the White House’s retelling of Flynn’s stunning downfall, his error was not that he discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian before the inauguration — a potential violation of a rarely enforced law — but the fact that he denied it for weeks, apparently misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other senior Trump aides about the nature of the conversations. White House officials said they conducted a thorough review of Flynn’s interactions, including transcripts of calls secretly recorded by U.S. intelligence officials, but found nothing illegal.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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