WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump questioned Saturday why President Barack Obama didn’t do more to stop Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election, an apparent acknowledgment of a foreign intrusion he has dismissed or downplayed.
Trump posed those questions after a Washington Post story Friday reported the internal debate by top Obama officials over its response after the CIA provided intelligence last August that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the election interference.
“Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?” Trump tweeted Friday evening.
Trump followed that tweet with two Saturday afternoon, suggesting the focus should be on the Obama administration, not himself, and another asking if Obama officials “didn’t want to hurt Hillary” Clinton after the story said one official said they “choked” on action against Russia.
Trump spoke about it in an interview by “Fox and Friends” Friday to be aired Sunday.
“The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time . . . before the election,” Trump said. “The question is, if he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it.”
Obama’s spokesman declined to comment on the tweets.
The Post story reported that former Obama officials told the Post they wish they had done more — one said, “I feel like we sort of choked” — and that they stepped lightly to avoid appearing to interfere politically as they assumed that Clinton would win the election.
But they said they also faced obstacles: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to sign a bipartisan statement about Russian meddling, some state election officials rejected offers of federal security help as a “federal takeover,” and Trump charged the election was “rigged.”
Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to Obama, responded to the Post story in a statement: “This situation was taken extremely seriously.”
Schultz said Obama raised election interference directly with Putin, 17 intelligence agencies issued “an extraordinary public statement,” homeland security officials worked to bolster voting systems around the country.
Schultz said Obama also directed a comprehensive intelligence review, and ultimately shut down two Russian compounds — one in Upper Brookville — and sanctions nine Russian entities and individuals and ejected 35 Russian diplomats from the United States.
Last year, Trump raised doubts about the Obama administration’s Oct. 7 statement that Russia hacked into Democratic National Committee emails. “It could be Russia, but it could also be China,” he said, or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
In January, Trump said, “I think it was Russia but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”
He has criticized the idea that his campaign coordinated or colluded with Russia to win the election as “fake” and a Democratic “hoax” and repeatedly has called congressional, FBI and the special counsel investigations a “witch hunt.”
Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, said Friday, “Our election infrastructure in this country is exposed . . . So what are we going to do about that for ’18 and ’20?”
Asked about that, White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Friday said Trump had signed a cybersecurity executive order to protect the integrity election and other systems, and instituted an election commission to maintain voting integrity, though it was initially aimed at illegal voting.