WASHINGTON – Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and President Donald Trump don’t agree on much about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, but they agree on this: President Barack Obama should have done more to stop Moscow from interfering.
Obama made a “very serious mistake” in not doing more about Russia’s intervention in the presidential election campaign, Schiff, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday.
“The administration needed to call out Russia earlier, and needed to act to deter and punish Russia earlier,” Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think the Obama administration should have done more when it became clear that not only was Russia intervening, but it was being directed at the highest levels of the Kremlin.”
Obama did announce in December a series of sanctions against Russia for its attempts to influence the November election, including the expulsion from the U.S. of 35 suspected intelligence operatives.
Schiff said the sanctions should have come sooner and been stronger. Obama also should have let the voters know about Russia’s actions while the campaign was still going on, he said. “What I urged at the time was he should have spoken out to the American people and said, ‘This is what Russia is doing,’ ” Schiff said.
Trump also questioned why Obama administration officials took no action on Russia before the election. “Since the Obama administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!” he said in a Twitter posting to his 32.8 million followers.
Trump said on Fox News Sunday that if Obama had the information about Russian meddling, “Why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”
During the campaign, Trump cast doubts on reports of Russian intervention, at one point suggesting that the hacking could be the work of China, or of “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Schiff said he had to contest Trump’s comments, given that the president had “openly egged the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mails” and Obama didn’t want to “play into the narrative” that the election was going to be rigged.
“Donald Trump is in no position to complain here,” Schiff said.