President Donald Trump responded to the recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials by attempting to blame his predecessor for inaction and promoting a popular conspiracy theory Saturday morning.
“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration,” Trump said about the Friday indictments connected to the reported hacking of a Democratic National Committee server during the 2016 U.S. election. “Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?”
Precisely what U.S. intelligence agencies and former President Barack Obama knew of the Russian officials’ alleged actions at the time is unclear. Former Obama staffers have expressed some misgivings about what, if anything, Obama could have done to prevent possible election meddling.
Trump also questioned federal authorities’ response to the hacking, asking why the FBI did not “take possession” of the DNC server.
“Deep State?” he wrote, referencing a conspiracy theory suggesting a group of unelected officials are actually in control of the government.
Friday’s indictments were decided by a grand jury convened by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the last presidential election.
Trump has long insisted that Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election is a “witch hunt,” despite U.S. intelligence findings in 2017 that some level of interference occurred.
Eleven of the Russians are charged with identity theft, conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to commit computer crimes. Two are charged with a conspiracy to commit computer crimes and stand accused of hacking the DNC, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Russia has denied that its government played any role in the hacking.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday that he informed Trump of the indictments earlier in the week. Friday’s announcement came just a few days before Trump’s scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
In a statement issued Friday, Rosenstein called for a “united” response to foreign interference.
“Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious, and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us,” he said. “So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.”