Trump blames Obama for fail­ing to halt Rus­sian med­dling.

Says he ob­structed hack­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER S.A. Miller and Sally Per­sons

Pres­i­dent Trump ap­peared to con­cede Mon­day that Rus­sia tried to help him win the 2016 elec­tion, and he blamed former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for not only fail­ing to stop the for­eign med­dling but for ob­struct­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the hack­ing.

In a se­ries of tweets, Mr. Trump sought to turn the ta­bles on Democrats by ac­cus­ing Mr. Obama of hav­ing “col­luded” with Moscow or hav­ing “ob­structed” the U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence by fail­ing to re­tal­i­ate against the Krem­lin un­til af­ter the elec­tion. Democrats have been lev­el­ing sim­i­lar charges of col­lu­sion and ob­struc­tion against Mr. Trump for months.

“The rea­son that Pres­i­dent Obama did NOTH­ING about Rus­sia af­ter be­ing no­ti­fied by the CIA of med­dling is that he ex­pected Clin­ton would win …” Mr. Trump tweeted. “He didn’t ‘choke,’ he col­luded or ob­structed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good.”

The pres­i­dent was re­fer­ring to a Wash­ing­ton Post re­port that said the CIA told Mr. Obama about al­leged Rus­sian med­dling in the elec­tion as early as Au­gust 2016, al­though the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion waited un­til Oc­to­ber to pub­licly dis­close the cy­ber­at­tacks. The re­port quoted one former White House of­fi­cial as say­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “kind of choked” in its re­sponse to Moscow’s at­tempted sab­o­tage.

Mr. Trump said Mon­day that Mr. Obama sat on his hands be­cause he “did not want to ‘rock the boat’” on the way to a pre­sumed vic­tory by Mrs. Clin­ton. And the pres­i­dent re­it­er­ated his po­si­tion that he is the vic­tim of a ‘witch hunt’ in on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions about pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween his cam­paign and Moscow.

“The real story is that Pres­i­dent Obama did NOTH­ING af­ter be­ing in­formed in Au­gust about Rus­sian med­dling,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “With 4 months look­ing at Rus­sia un­der a mag­ni­fy­ing glass, they have zero ‘tapes’ of T[rump] peo­ple col­lud­ing. There is no col­lu­sion & no ob­struc­tion. I should be given apol­ogy!”

In those com­ments, Mr. Trump went fur­ther than he has pre­vi­ously in seem­ing to ac­knowl­edge an or­ga­nized ef­fort by Moscow to de­feat former Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton and, con­se­quently, to help get him elected. Later Mon­day, White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer walked back the pres­i­dent’s tweets about Rus­sia to what Mr. Trump had said about the is­sue five months ago.

“He be­lieves that Rus­sia prob­a­bly was in­volved” in in­ter­fer­ing with the elec­tion, Mr. Spicer told re­porters, and that other coun­tries “pos­si­bly” were in­volved as well.

“He stands by the state­ments that he made in Jan­uary,” Mr. Spicer said.

Re­ac­tion from Team Obama was swift and heated. Former Obama of­fi­cials ac­cused Mr. Trump of try­ing to dis­tract the pub­lic from Repub­li­cans’ “ter­ri­ble” health-care bill, and ar­gued that Repub­li­cans pre­vented the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion last year from responding more ag­gres­sively to Moscow’s in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.

“Pres­i­dent Trump — by ac­cus­ing oth­ers of col­lu­sion and ob­struc­tion, the very crimes for which he’s be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties — is now re­sort­ing to a de­fense best ar­tic­u­lated by Pee-Wee Her­man,” said Ned Price, former spokesman of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil un­der Mr. Obama. “He’s essen­tially say­ing, ‘I know you are, but what am I?’ And he’s re­sort­ing to this play­ground tac­tic be­cause his own ac­tions are in­de­fen­si­ble.”

In re­sponse to Rus­sia’s med­dling, Mr. Price said, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion “had one paramount ob­jec­tive: to en­sure the in­tegrity of the most sa­cred el­e­ment of our democ­racy, the vote.”

“We did that through a se­ries of pri­vate and pub­lic warn­ings to the Rus­sians, ac­tions to sen­si­tize elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in all 50 states, and, of course, warn­ings to the Amer­i­can pub­lic start­ing a full month be­fore the elec­tion about Rus­sia’s med­dling,” he said.

He said Obama of­fi­cials “achieved this out­come with­out much sup­port from the Re­pub­li­can Congress,” not­ing that Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky re­fused in Septem­ber to sign on to a state­ment at­tribut­ing the med­dling to the Rus­sians.

An­other former Obama White House of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said Mr. Trump’s at­tacks on Mr. Obama were “a trans­par­ent ef­fort to dis­tract from the ter­ri­ble im­pact of their [Oba­macare] re­peal bill.”

The former Obama aide said Mr. Obama mus­tered a “ro­bust” re­sponse to Moscow’s hack­ing of Demo­cratic Party emails and other records.

“This sit­u­a­tion was taken ex­tremely se­ri­ously, as is ev­i­dent by Pres­i­dent Obama rais­ing this is­sue di­rectly with Pres­i­dent Putin; 17 in­tel­li­gence agen­cies is­su­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary pub­lic state­ment; our home­land se­cu­rity of­fi­cials work­ing re­lent­lessly to bol­ster the cy­ber de­fenses of vot­ing in­fra­struc­ture around the coun­try; the pres­i­dent di­rect­ing a com­pre­hen­sive in­tel­li­gence re­view, and ul­ti­mately is­su­ing a ro­bust re­sponse in­clud­ing shut­ting down two Rus­sian com­pounds, sanc­tion­ing nine Rus­sian en­ti­ties and in­di­vid­u­als, and eject­ing 35 Rus­sian diplo­mats from the coun­try,” the of­fi­cial said.

Mr. Obama’s ac­tions to close the Rus­sian com­pounds, in­clud­ing one on Mary­land’s East­ern Shore, and to eject the diplo­mats came in late De­cem­ber, af­ter Mrs. Clin­ton lost the elec­tion.

Mr. Spicer said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions on Rus­sia raise ques­tions about Mr. Obama’s mo­tives.

“They have been very clear, they’ve been play­ing this card about blam­ing Trump and Rus­sia,” Mr. Spicer said. “And yet at the same time, they were the ones who, ac­cord­ing to this re­port, knew about it and didn’t take any ac­tion.”

● to this re­port. con­trib­uted

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In a se­ries of tweets Mon­day, Pres­i­dent Trump ac­cused former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama of col­lud­ing with Moscow and ob­struct­ing the U.S. probe into Rus­sia in­ter­fer­ence by fail­ing to re­tal­i­ate against the Krem­lin un­til af­ter the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

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