— -- The president’s new press secretary dismissed the media’s focus on the Russia investigation, what she called “Russia fever,” as an attempt to delegitimize Trump’s election victory.
“There's a ton of focus on what I like to call Russia fever,” press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday.
She said the allegations swirling around Russia and Trump associates is a “total made-up story about the president, trying to take away the legitimacy of his victory in November.”
Instead, she said the focus should be on leaks of sensitive information to the media. “We need to focus on these leaks. This is the only illegal thing that has taken place, and it's a real serious problem.”
Sanders was responding to a question by Stephanopoulos about a tweet by the president Saturday decrying what Trump called "a new intelligence leak" about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Stephanopoulos pressed Sanders on the tweet: "That appears to be a confirmation that the attorney general was talking to the Russian ambassador about the campaign" during the 2016 presidential race.
"I think the president's point is that there's a real problem with leaks, whether they're actual leaks or not. There's an issue that there are constant stories, sometimes true, sometimes not, that are being leaked out of the intelligence community," she said.
Earlier this week, President Trump, in a lengthy interview with The New York Times, said he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he knew the former Alabama senator would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Sanders said on "This Week," "The president knows the attorney general is trying hard and he appreciates that. But at the same time, he's disappointed that he chose to recuse himself. I don't think that that's inconsistent or hard to understand, that there would be frustration with that."
The president’s spokeswoman also said Trump will support proposed legislation slapping new sanctions on Russia.
“The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place,” she said.
The House and Senate struck a deal on a bill that puts new sanctions on Russia for its interference in the U.S. 2016 election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
The bill also gives Congress the power to review any effort by the Trump administration to ease or end sanctions against Moscow. The legislation includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea as well.
“The original piece of legislation was poorly written, but we were able to work with the House and Senate, and the administration is happy with the ability to do that, and make those changes that were necessary, and we support where the legislation is now,” Sanders said.