Trump Acknowledges Russian Meddling, Blames Obama Admin. For ‘No Action’

President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump acknowledged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to respond to it on Friday night and again Saturday afternoon.

The comments seemed to be in reference to a lengthy Washington Post report Friday on the decision-making process behind the Obama administration’s response to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump has repeatedly hedged on whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, frequently dismissing the story entirely and saying Democrats were using it as an excuse for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential race.

The U.S. intelligence community on Oct. 7 accused Russia of hacking into the email systems of “US political organizations,” but did not say the effort was made to aide Donald Trump or hurt Hillary Clinton. A declassified intelligence community report released Jan. 6 asserted: “We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

In December, the Obama administration closed two Russian diplomatic compounds and expelled 35 Russian diplomats, in addition to imposing limited new sanctions.

Among other things, the Post reported Friday that the Obama administration had received in intelligence in August 2016 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered a campaign to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016, and to help Donald Trump’s.

“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” one unnamed former senior Obama administration official “involved in White House deliberations on Russia” told the Post, referring to the Obama administration’s response to the hacking campaign. “I feel like we sort of choked.”

While Trump wondered on Twitter Saturday if the Obama administration had not done more to counter Russia because “[t]hey didn’t want to hurt Hillary,” according to the Post, Obama’s concerns may have been the opposite: The administration was hesitant to appear as though they were intervening in the election on Clinton’s behalf, and against Trump, the Post reported.

By then, Trump already spoke frequently of a “rigged” election.

Asked Wednesday why it took “the administration so long to make a public statement that a foreign adversary was trying to influence the American election,” former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified: “One of the candidates, as you’ll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way. And so we were concerned that by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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