U.S. President Donald Trump Monday said a four-month probe into allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia has turned up nothing, and he deserves an apology.
In a barrage of Twitter messages on Monday, Trump also accused former President Barack Obama of failing to act in response to intelligence reports that Russia was meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections because he thought Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the presidency despite the Kremlin's clan destine efforts.
Following up on the Twitter posts, spokesman Sean Spicer told White House reporters the president believes Russia was "probably" involved in election interference, and may not have been the only country doing so. Neither Spicer nor Trump indicated what action they thought Obama should have taken to counter Russia's election interference.
Spicer said Trump has been consistent in his position since January: "He believes that Russia probably was involved, potentially."
"Some other countries as well could have equally been involved - or could have been involved, not equally," the spokesman said, adding that Trump "stands by the statement that he made in January."
Asked specifically whether Trump believes intelligence assessments that Russian meddling was intended to help him win, Spicer said, "I’ve never asked him that specific question."
Last August, three months before the American vote, the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directly ordered a cyber campaign to discredit the presidential election and to defeat or at least damage Clinton, thereby helping Trump win.
Obama pondered for weeks how to respond after being briefed on the CIA finding, The Washington Post reported last week. Ultimately, he made no direct response until after Trump’s election victory, when he expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian facilities that the U.S. believed Moscow was using for intelligence gathering.
The Post article quoted a former senior Obama administration official involved in the White House deliberations on Russia as saying, "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. ... We sort of choked."
In a two-part Twitter post Monday, Trump seemed to be replying to the Obama official quoted in The Post article. "The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win and did not want to 'rock the boat.' He didn't 'choke,' he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good."
In a second two-part tweet, Trump wrote, "The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With 4 months looking at Russia under a magnifying glass, they have zero 'tapes' of T [Trump] people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!"
Spokesman Spicer suggested to reporters Monday that Obama administration officials should be made to answer “some serious questions about what they did or did not do in terms of acting” on the intelligence they received months before the election.
“I think it’s pretty clear that they knew all along that there was no collusion," Spicer said, "and that’s very helpful for the president.”
Spicer said Trump is taking action to prevent any further election interference: “He signed an executive order on cyber security to strengthen our ability to combat anybody from interfering, not just in our election but in a lot of our key cyber infrastructure.”
For months Trump has reacted dismissively to claims that Russian interference influenced the election, even though in January, before he took office, he acknowledged that Russia had hacked into computers at Democratic national headquarters in Washington and that Putin directed the cyberattack.
The file-sharing group WikiLeaks disclosed thousands of emails in the weeks leading up to the election that showed embarrassing behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic operatives to help Clinton win the party’s presidential nomination in mid-2016. Clinton has said the steady drumbeat of information about the emails was one reason she eventually lost the election, although national surveys had indicated she would win.