US President Donald Trump has called the ongoing investigation into his alleged dealings with Russia during the 2016 US presidential election “a big hoax,” saying it’s his predecessor, Barack Obama, who needs to be probed for not taking action against Moscow.
Trump, who has been under fire for his performance during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, said Sunday that Obama was fully aware of the alleged Russian interference but did not take action because he thought Trump was never going to defeat his Democratic Party rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump spent days trying to reassure Americans that he accepts that Moscow interfered in the 2016 US election after his public undermining of US intelligence agencies in Helsinki while standing alongside Putin. But Trump cast doubt once again in a Sunday tweet, diminishing at least the significance, if not the existence, of the interference and the US investigation into Russia’s actions.
"So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election," Trump tweeted Sunday. "Why didn't he do something about it? Why didn't he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!"
It was not immediately clear whether Trump was suggesting that the entire notion of alleged Russian meddling was fraudulent, or just the investigation of potential collusion by Trump associates with Russian agents.
Trump has accused the FBI and the Obama administration of spying on his campaign and deliberately ignoring the first sign of a possible Russian intervention.
His latest missive came shortly after the FBI released a redacted version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application, revealing that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had been the subject of “targeted recruitment” by Russia during the 2016 election that yielded President Trump.
The release also noted Page’s “established relationships” with Russians.
Trump did not specify what he considered a hoax -- the ongoing investigation into his “collusion” with Russia which is led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or the claim that Russia interfered with the election campaign through hacking attacks that US spy agencies say tipped the scale in his favor.
The tweet echoed comments the American head of state made in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity that aired Monday, following the meeting with Putin in the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
"He [Obama] thought Hillary Clinton was going to win and he didn’t want to do anything to disturb it," Trump said then. "And frankly, when I won, he said, 'This is the biggest deal.' But before I won, he said, 'This is nothing and it can't happen.' It’s a very dishonest deal."
The comments once again highlighted Trump’s difference of opinion with the US intelligence community, something he tried so hard to gloss over following an explosive joint press briefing with Putin.
Controversy arose during the media session when the US head of state appeared to side with Putin, undermining the US intelligence community over the allegations.
Trump briefly contradicted findings by his intelligence agencies and said he did not see any reason “why it would be” Russia behind the attacks. He walked back that statement on Tuesday, however, claiming he meant to say “wouldn’t.”
It only took Trump one day, however, to undermine his latest statement by answering "no" to a reporter's question asking whether Russia was still targeting the US.
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