President Donald Trump is suggesting that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should expand his probe of Russia’s election meddling to include top Obama administration officials.
Trump’s veiled suggestion that former President Barack Obama and his team be investigated instead of him and his campaign advisers is part of a shift in the president’s messaging in recent days.
Before Mueller indicted more than a dozen Russian nationals and three Russian entities on Friday — peppering court documents with detailed accounts of their pro-Trump tactics during the 2016 campaign — Trump referred to the whole thing as a “hoax” or “witch hunt.” Trump did at times say he thought Russians might have interfered — but he also pointed fingers at other countries and even 400-pound guys in their basements.
“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?” Trump asked in a Wednesday morning tweet.
“Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation?” he added.
He then appeared to pressure his hand-picked attorney general into launching a probe of Obama administration officials and other top Democrats — while spelling his name wrong by leaving off the letter “s” on the end: “Ask Jeff Session!”
Trump later posted a corrected version of the tweet with Sessions’ name spelled correctly.
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? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
Trump’s contentions about what then-President Obama did and did not do during the election are undercut by events in the homestretch of the 2016 race. The 44th president was admittedly worried about being seen as taking actions against Russia that would have been widely perceived as favoring Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of State.
But Obama did expel two dozen Russian nationals from the United States, shutter Russian diplomatic facilities inside the U.S., and impose sanctions.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday tried to draw a distinction between Russia’s election meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion with Moscow. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president has been contending the latter was a “hoax,” not the former.
She said the Trump administration will take actions such as imposing additional sanctions to combat Russian interference.
But notably, Trump has not publicly criticized Russia or its hard-line president, Vladimir Putin, since Mueller’s Friday indictment documents were released.
Watch: Intelligence Officials Aware of Russian Activity Aimed at 2018 Elections