President Donald Trump on Wednesday again questioned why, if Russia was interfering in the 2016 U.S. election, former President Barack Obama and his administration did little to thwart it and why they are not now being investigated.
Trump virtually demanded his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, undertake an investigation of Obama and officials in that administration.
It has been a recurring theme for Trump in recent days: casting aspersions on several months-long investigations of his campaign’s links to Russian interests during the run-up to the November 2016 election and afterward, and attempting to divert attention to the Obama administration that was in office ahead of the vote and for weeks after it.
Trump’s admonishment of Sessions also showed the president’s continuing upset that the attorney general removed himself from oversight of the Russia probe because of his own 2016 contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington, eventually leading to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to head the ongoing criminal investigation.
Trump’s comments came in the aftermath of Mueller filing charges last week against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities for allegedly conducting an “information warfare” campaign against the U.S. with fake stories and commentary about divisive U.S. issues in an effort to help Trump defeat Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
Trump has only reluctantly supported the finding of the U.S. intelligence community, and now Mueller, that Russia carried out a campaign to help him win the White House. He has not condemned Moscow for its 2016 election interference and, according to his intelligence chiefs’ congressional testimony last week, has not directed them to take any action to thwart Russian interference in the U.S. congressional elections set for November.
Trump has so far declined to impose sanctions on Russia for its election interference that were overwhelmingly approved by Congress and sought to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A month ahead of the 2016 election, the U.S. intelligence community voiced concern about the Russian interference. At that point, Obama wanted to issue a bipartisan statement about the Russian meddling, but was rebuffed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
After the election, in the last weeks of his presidency, Obama issued sanctions against nine Russian individuals and entities for election meddling. Obama also expelled 35 Russian government officials and ordered two waterfront compounds closed that the U.S. said the Russians were using for intelligence-gathering operations.
Trump praised Putin when the Russian leader subsequently ordered the dismissal of 755 workers at U.S. outposts in Russia, many of them Russians. Trump said it would help the U.S. save money with a diminished payroll in Russia.
Earlier this week, Trump said Obama failed to act against Russian meddling because he thought Clinton would win.
In another tweet, Trump said, “I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts. Total Fake News!” He praised his favorite television show, Fox and Friends for laying out a timeline he said showed “all of the failures of the Obama Administration” in combating Russian military involvement in Syria and its takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.