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Monday, June 26, 2017
By Criticizing Obama, Trump Contradicts His Own Comments on Russian Meddling
President Trump has accused his predecessor of “doing nothing” in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — a misleading statement that contradicts his previous comments.
Mr. Trump’s latest assertions were made after The Washington Post reported on Friday that President Barack Obama was aware of Russia’s campaign as early as August, but did not publicize the findings for fear of politicizing the election and of escalating aggression from the Kremlin.
“I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it. But nobody wants to talk about that,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with “Fox and Friends” that aired on Sunday. “If he had the information, why didn’t he do anything about it?”
Mr. Trump has consistently refused to acknowledge Russia’s involvement, and his assertions about Mr. Obama and his own ignorance are highly misleading. Here’s an assessment.
Mr. Trump’s claim of receiving recent knowledge is false.
Since last summer, the accusations of Russian cyberattacks have been widely reported, and it is clear that Mr. Obama — and Mr. Trump — were aware of the malfeasance, though Mr. Trump has repeatedly refused to acknowledge Russia was behind the hacking.
“We believe it was the D.N.C. that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the D.N.C. doesn’t hack Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails,” he said in a statement.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference, referring to the emails that were deleted from Mrs. Clinton’s private servers. On Monday, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said during a briefing that Mr. Trump was “kidding” at the time.
As the official nominees of their parties, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton began receiving intelligence briefings in early August. On Sept. 22, Democrats leading the House and Senate Intelligence Committees issued a statement accusing Russia “based on briefings we have received.” Four days later, during the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump declined to agree, adding it could be China or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Mr. Trump again expressed doubt that Russia was responsible. During the second presidential debate, he said, “Maybe there’s no hacking.”
His charge that Mr. Obama “did nothing” is also incorrect.
Though some Democrats were dissatisfied with Mr. Obama’s response and say his administration should have done more, Mr. Obama did act.
John O. Brennan, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, warned his Russian counterpart against meddling on Aug. 4, 2016, according to his testimony to Congress in late May. Around this time, the Department of Homeland Security also warned state governments of attempts to access voter registration systems and encouraged them to seek assistance, Jeh Johnson, the former homeland secretary, has said.
In September, Mr. Obama warned Mr. Putin directly at a Group of 20 summit meeting in China. Mr. Obama confirmed at a news conference in December that he had told Mr. Putin to “cut it out,” and explained that he held back from retaliating for fear of Russia escalating the cyberattacks.
On Jan. 6, the office of the director of national intelligence released a declassified report. After being briefed that day on the cyberattacks, Mr. Trump issued a statement pointing to “Russia, China and other countries.”
After his inauguration, Mr. Trump expanded the pool of culpability in multipleinterviews and still would not formally declare Russia responsible.
This spring, numerous intelligence officials, including Mr. Brennan and Mr. Johnson, have testified before Congress and confirmed that Russia meddled in the election. James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, said in an interview that he was “absolutely” certain of Russia’s actions. James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, also said he had “no doubt” of it.