President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with retail industry leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.

WASHINGTON — Coverage of President Donald Trump’s administration Wednesday (all times local):

Trump defends Michael Flynn as a ‘wonderful man’

Updated 12:35 p.m.: President Donald Trump says his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is a “wonderful man” who has been treated “very, very unfairly” by the media.

The White House says Trump fired Flynn late Monday following reports that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump was sworn into office.

Flynn and other administration officials originally denied the topic had been discussed. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Flynn had lost the president’s trust.

But Trump says in a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he thinks “it’s really a sad thing” that Flynn “was treated so badly.”

He’s also going after those who have leaked information to the press, describing it as a “criminal act.”

Trump tells retailers that people will love his tax plan

Updated 11:05 a.m.: President Donald Trump has told the heads of several of the largest U.S. retailers — including Target, Best Buy and Gap — that people will “love” his planned tax reforms.

The president has provided scant details about his tax overhaul, but he assured retail CEOs Wednesday that tax rates would be lowered and simplified in a “massive” plan that “will be submitted in the not too distant future.”

“Other than H&R Block, I think people are going to love it,” the president said.

But during the public portion of the meeting, Trump provided no insight as to whether he still intends to levy a border tax on imports. Trump has threatened a border tax in order to protect U.S. factory jobs, but retailers have warned that it could cause higher prices for consumers.

Senate Democrats call for investigation

Updated 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.

White House Press secretary Sean Spicer points as he answers questions from members of the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.

Trump accuses Obama administration of being too soft on Russia

Updated 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.

Trump: ‘This Russian connection non-sense’

Updated 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.

McConnell says Trump is the president that people wanted

Updated 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.

In this Jan. 28, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump accompanied by, from second from left, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, White House press secretary Sean Spicer and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. Flynn resigned as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.


Trump knew Flynn’s statements weren’t accurate

Updated 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.

In this Feb. 12, 2017, photo, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn boards Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., as he return to Washington with President Donald Trump. Flynn resigned as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.

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