WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump, in a series of angry and defiant tweets Sunday morning, sought to shift the blame to Democrats for Russia’s virtual war to meddle in the 2016 election, saying that President Barack Obama had not done enough to stop the interference and denying that he had ever suggested that Moscow might not have been involved.
Trump, who has said little to publicly acknowledge a threat to U.S. democracy that even one of his top aides called “incontrovertible” on Saturday, asserted that the efforts to investigate and combat the Russian meddling had only given the Russians what they wanted, saying that “they are laughing their asses off in Moscow.”
If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
From his Florida estate, the president has spent the weekend stewing over news coverage of an indictment secured last week against more than a dozen Russians by Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
The indictment says that while the Russians began their scheme in 2014 with the goal of undermining the U.S. democratic system, they eventually shifted their focus to trying to help elect Trump and disparage his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The president has repeatedly seized on the fact that the efforts started before he became a candidate, but has glossed over the conclusion that they evolved toward supporting his candidacy. The indictment does not assert any wrongdoing by the president or anyone affiliated with him.
In another tweet Sunday, Trump, who has tried since the campaign to sow doubts about who was behind the election intrusions, said that he had “never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” quoting a comment he made in a 2016 presidential debate.
I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia - it never did!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
Yet he has repeatedly denied that Russia was behind any meddling, even going so far in November as to suggest that he believed President Vladimir Putin’s denials of interference over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said at the time, calling questions about Moscow’s meddling a politically motivated “hit job.”
Trump has long fought the idea that Moscow’s efforts might have influenced the election, viewing it as a threat to his legitimacy. He has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront the Russians for their intrusion.
On Sunday, Trump praised remarks by one of his chief antagonists, Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, that criticized Obama’s muted response to the Russian threat. But at the same time he called the congressman “the leakin’ monster of no control.”
Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, lead by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
The president in the past has traded bitter Twitter messages with Schiff, accusing him of leaking classified information from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s actions.
On Saturday, the president’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said, referring to the Russian meddling, “With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain.”
In a late-night tweet Saturday, Trump criticized McMaster for not saying at the security conference in Germany where he was speaking that the election results had not been changed as a result of the Russian interference. The nation’s intelligence agencies believe that it is not possible to make such a conclusion.
General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018