President Donald Trump on Wednesday questioned why his predecessor in the Oval Office did not do more to respond to the Russian interference in U.S. elections that occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump’s tweet calling out Barack Obama came a day after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders argued that the current chief executive has done more than the last one to confront Russia.
“Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation?” the president tweeted. “Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!”
Trump has made no secret of his displeasure with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and allegations of collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and special interests linked to Moscow. Former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that millions of Americans share Trump’s frustration.
“I think the president is reflecting a legitimate question, which is being expressed by many Americans,” he said. “They do not understand the trajectory of this investigation.”
Obama did belatedly slap sanctions on Russia and expelled a limited number of diplomats. He also pulled Russian President Vladimir Putin aside at an international conference in China and warned him to “cut it out.” But even some Democrats have criticized Obama for not responding more forcefully or publicly to Russian interference.
Trump is right to raise that point, diGenova said.
“These are not the musings of a small mind,” he said. “These are the musings of a big mind.”
In a separate appearance on the radio show, former FBI Assistant Director Ron Hosko said the indictment brought last week by Mueller against 13 Russians and three Russian companies demonstrates that the meddling was real.
“But if you look at the detail and the operation that they set up, much of it occurring in St. Petersburg [Russia], certainly Mueller’s investigators and prosecutors unwound something that had some complications,” he said.
Hosko said Congress should focus on uncovering exactly what Russia did and devise strategies for countering that activity in the future.
“And to me, you know, there’s a valuable question here about what did we know, when did we know it?” he said. “What did we do about it? What did we do to inform the public that your processing of your candidate, during the run-up to the election, was being tinkered with by the Russians? And what do we do to prepare the public for more of the same in the next election?”
But Hosko said the United States should not make the mistake of focusing solely on Russia to the exclusion of other threats.
“The reality is China is reaping the benefits of American intellectual property to [the] tune of billions of dollars every year,” he said. “What they can steal, they are stealing.”
Hosko pointed to China’s massive 2014 hack of the Office of Personnel Management, which resulted in the theft of 21.5 million records of current and former federal employees.
“We ought to expose, what did the Obama administration know and what did they do?” he said. “Certainly after the OPM hack, it didn’t seem like they were doing very much at all. We are vulnerable.”
As to when Mueller will wrap up his Russia probe, Hosko said it is difficult to guess.
“Mueller’s working quietly,” he said. “I think he’s working quickly. We don’t know what Mueller knows. We don’t know where he’s headed.”