Trump, inexplicably, says he has 'been much tougher on Russia than Obama'

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump declared on Tuesday, without evidence or explanation, that he has been “much tougher on Russia” than President Obama.

It’s not clear which facts Trump is referring to. In December 2016, Obama issued unprecedented sanctions against Russia for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, ordering 35 Russian diplomats to leave the U.S., and the closure of two Russian compounds.

“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government,” the Obama White House said in a statement. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Trump repeatedly rejected the assertions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking. And the president has still has not put into effect new sanctions — passed by large majorities in Congress last year — that were designed to punish the Kremlin and deter it from interfering in the 2018 midterms. And in October, the Trump administration missed a deadline to publish a list of Russian entities and individuals in the military and intelligence sectors subject to sanctions.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump pointed to comments his predecessor made less than a month before the 2016 election: “There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections,” Obama said in October 2017, responding to Trump’s repeated claims that the vote would be “rigged” in favor of the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

“There’s no evidence that that has happened in the past or that it will happen this time,” Obama added. “And so I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and make his case to get votes.”

Trump tweeted the quote, which was featured on a “Fox and Friends” segment, and followed it up with some Trumpian punditry.

“That’s because he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win and he didn’t want to ‘rock the boat,’” the president wrote on Twitter. “When I easily won the Electoral College, the whole game changed and the Russian excuse became the narrative of the Dems.”

But those are two different things. Obama was disputing that election officials would tamper with the vote totals to favor Hillary Clinton — something that has not been shown, or even seriously alleged, to have occurred. The issue now is Russian meddling in last year’s election by way of social media and hacking, which the heads of all the major security agencies agree happened last year — and is continuing into the 2018 election cycle.

On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office announced charges against 13 Russians and three Russian entities for allegedly carrying out an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 election.

On Monday, after a weekend filled with tweets about the Mueller indictments, Trump falsely suggested Obama didn’t “do something” about Russian meddling.

On Oct. 7, 2016, the Obama administration announced its belief that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee earlier that year. After the election, Obama ordered a review of the election hacking, which was followed by sanctions against Moscow.

But some Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., have criticized Obama for not doing enough.

“I said all along that I thought the Obama administration should have done more,” Schiff told CNN on Sunday. “They were very wary of appearing to be putting their hand on the scale in the election.”

But Schiff added: “None of that is an excuse for this president to sit on his hands.”

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