WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump continued to criticize former President Barack Obama on Monday for his response to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election — blasting his predecessor in a series of tweets, then demanding an “apology.”
“The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win … and did not want to ‘rock the boat.’ He didn’t ‘choke,’ he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good,” Trump wrote.
“The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With 4 months looking at Russia … under a magnifying glass, they have zero ‘tapes’ of T people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!” he wrote on Twitter.
It was unclear who Trump was demanding an apology from or who he was accusing Obama of colluding with.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that the Obama administration’s actions on Russia raise questions about the former president’s motivations.
“They have been very clear, they’ve been playing this card about blaming Trump and Russia,” Spicer said during an off-camera briefing at the White House. “And yet at the same time, they were the ones who, according to this report, knew about it and didn’t take any action.”
“So the question is, if they didn’t take any action, does that make them complicit? I think there are a lot of questions that need to get answered about who knew what and when,” Spicer said.
Trump has often expressed deep frustration over accusations that individuals in his orbit colluded with Russia during the election and assertions that he may have tried to personally influence the FBI’s probe into the matter.
Last week, two of the nation’s top intelligence officials told special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings, that Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as uncomfortable but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.
Monday’s series of tweets comes after Trump spent the weekend attacking the Obama administration over new reporting from The Washington Post that linked interference in last year’s election directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin and revealed political considerations that may have allowed Moscow to avoid paying a significant price for an attempt to manipulate the US election on an unprecedented scale.
The Post said the Obama administration felt its hands were tied when Russian hacking first came to light because it did not want to be accused of interfering in an already turbulent campaign. At the time, Trump was claiming publicly that the election was rigged against him.
In a tweet Saturday, Trump wrote: “Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!”
Trump also criticized Obama in an interview that was broadcast on “Fox and Friends” on Sunday.
“It’s an amazing thing. To me — in other words, the question is, if he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it?” Trump said, apparently seizing on a quote in the Post report that indicated that many Obama administration officials now believe that their own response to Russian hacking was insufficient.
“I feel like we sort of choked,” one former senior Obama aide told the Post, referring to the administration’s decision to impose sanctions and insert cyberweapons inside Russia’s critical infrastructure that could be activated at a future point rather than launch more extreme retaliatory measures.
Trump’s criticism of Obama comes as questions remain about whether the White House intends to take any muscular action to punish the Kremlin or to shore up US electoral defenses.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Russian hacking accusations, validated by US intelligence agencies, and allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russians are a “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats upset about the party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, losing the election.
But now Trump seems to be finally acknowledging that Russia did play a role in the election.
Last week, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that he had not had a chance to sit down with the President to ask him whether he agreed with his intelligence agencies that Russia did actually interfere in the election. Pushed on Friday, Spicer said that Trump stood by a comment in January this year when he said: “I think it was Russia.” Spicer also said Trump was concerned about election interference by “any actor.”
A former Obama White House official called the Trump administration’s attacks “a transparent effort to distract from the terrible impact of their ACA repeal bill.”
“This situation was taken extremely seriously,” the official added, defending Obama’s decision to raise the issue directly with President Putin, direct a comprehensive intelligence review, shut down two Russian compounds, sanction nine Russian entities and individuals, and eject 35 Russian diplomats from the country.