Schiff: Obama should have de­tered Rus­sia ear­lier

Elec­tion-year pol­i­tics hin­dered action

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

It was the Demo­cratic Party’s turn Sun­day to sweat over Rus­sian med­dling as law­mak­ers ad­mit­ted that thenPres­i­dent Barack Obama knew about the for­eign elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence but failed to act un­til af­ter the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race.

Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should have done more to counter Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence, blam­ing elec­tion-year pol­i­tics for what he de­scribed as “a very se­ri­ous mis­take.”

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple needed to know, and I didn’t think it was enough to tell them af­ter the elec­tion, but rather given the se­ri­ous­ness of this, I think the ad­min­is­tra­tion needed to call out Rus­sia ear­lier and needed to act to de­ter and pun­ish Rus­sia ear­lier, and I think that was a very se­ri­ous mis­take,” said Mr. Schiff on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He said the ad­min­is­tra­tion was con­cerned about “be­ing per­ceived as in­ter­fer­ing in the elec­tion, try­ing to tip the scales for Hil­lary Clin­ton,” Mr. Schiff said.

“I also think they were con­cerned about not want­ing to play into the nar­ra­tive that Don­ald Trump was telling, that the elec­tion was go­ing to be rigged, even though Don­ald Trump was talk­ing about a com­pletely dif­fer­ent kind of rig­ging than for­eign in­ter­ven­tion,” Mr. Schiff said.

“But both of those fac­tors did not out­weigh in my view, and I ar­gued this at the time, did not out­weigh the pub­lic’s need to know,” he said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Vir­ginia Demo­crat who sits on the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, de­fended the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion by point­ing to the steps taken in De­cem­ber af­ter the elec­tion, in­clud­ing shut­ting down two com­pounds and throw­ing out 35 diplo­mats.

At the same time, he didn’t make ex­cuses for Mr. Obama’s pre-elec­tion hes­i­ta­tion.

“Well, what was known back in Au­gust and once it was ver­i­fied and cross­checked should have been made pub­lic,” said Mr. Manchin on CBS’s “Face the Na­tion.” “It should have been made pub­lic, OK? That wasn’t done. I can’t sec­ond-guess that.”

White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way had lit­tle sym­pa­thy for the Democrats af­ter months of at­tacks on Pres­i­dent Trump stem­ming from the hack­ing of Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee emails, in­clud­ing un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims that his cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia.

“I think the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion has a lot of ques­tions to an­swer given this Rus­sian ob­ses­sion by ev­ery­one,” said Ms. Con­way on ABC’s “This Week.”

“But I have no idea why the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, ex­cept that they thought Hil­lary would win and it didn’t mat­ter, couldn’t take action,” she said. “Why they failed to de­liver on such an es­sen­tial duty, they had the pre­rog­a­tive, the duty and they failed to act on Rus­sian hack­ing.”

Mr. Trump also blasted the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and asked why the Demo­cratic pres­i­dent failed to im­pose sanc­tions prior to the elec­tion.

“Pres­i­dent Obama knew about Rus­sia a long time be­fore the elec­tion, and he did noth­ing about it, but no­body wants to talk about that,” said Mr. Trump in an in­ter­view on “Fox & Friends” that aired Sun­day. “If he had the in­for­ma­tion, why didn’t he do some­thing about it? He should have done some­thing about it.”

The pres­i­dent added, “But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”

The back-and-forth fol­lowed a Fri­day re­port in Wash­ing­ton Post on Mr. Obama’s “se­cret strug­gle to pun­ish Rus­sia for Putin’s elec­tion as­sault”

Mr. Schiff said he and his Se­nate coun­ter­part, Cal­i­for­nia’s Dianne Fe­in­stein, urged the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore the elec­tion to act more force­fully, and later called for sanc­tions against Rus­sia.

He said they took the un­prece­dented set of is­su­ing a pub­lic state­ment in Septem­ber “at­tribut­ing a for­eign hack to a for­eign party,” us­ing their own in­tel­li­gence, out of frus­tra­tion over the lack of action.

“Now we had to vet that with the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, but we took that step be­cause we weren’t suc­ceed­ing in get­ting the ad­min­is­tra­tion to do it it­self,” Mr. Schiff said.

At the same time, Mr. Schiff said that Mr. Trump was “in no po­si­tion to com­plain.”

“I think that was a mis­take [by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion], but I have to contest what Pres­i­dent Trump was also say­ing, be­cause for Don­ald Trump, who openly egged on the Rus­sians to hack Hil­lary Clin­ton emails and cel­e­brated every re­lease of these stolen doc­u­ments to crit­i­cize Obama now, is a bit like some­one know­ingly re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty blam­ing the po­lice for not stop­ping the theft,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“I also think they were con­cerned about not want­ing to play into the nar­ra­tive that Don­ald Trump was telling, that the elec­tion was go­ing to be rigged,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, dur­ing an in­ter­view on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sun­day.

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