Trump’s new, completely incoherent attack on the Russia investigation

Trump accuses Obama of spearheading the worst conspiracy of all time.

CREDIT: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
CREDIT: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday morning, President Trump claimed that the Obama administration launched an investigation into his campaign months before the 2016 election in hopes that it would prevent him winning.

“Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November? Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win,” Trump tweeted. “Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling.”

Trump’s new talking point — that the Russia investigation was part of an effort to prevent him from winning the election — conflicts with his old one, which is that the notion his campaign was up to something nefarious with Russians was concocted by Democrats after the election as an excuse for Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

There’s also an easy answer to Trump’s question about why the investigation started in July 2016. As the New York Times reported in December, the investigation began after one of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, bragged to an Australian diplomat in May 2016 about his knowledge that Russia “had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

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“[T]wo months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts,” the Times reported, and the FBI launched its investigation at that point.

The worst conspiracy of all time

Trump’s claim that the Obama administration launched an investigation into his campaign as part of an effort to discredit him and help Hillary Clinton is belied by the timeline of 2016.

While both the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign were under investigation at different points that year, FBI officials only publicized the Clinton email investigation — and the FBI’s silence about the one into the Trump campaign arguably cost Clinton the election. President Trump himself cited the FBI’s harsh treatment of Clinton as a reason to fire then-FBI Director James Comey. Republicans who have been pushing the narrative of anti-Trump bias have had a hard time explaining the disconnect between history and their conspiracy theory.

It’s also untrue that Obama “did NOTHING” about Russia meddling.

In fact, Obama’s efforts to do more to stop Russian meddling ahead of the 2016 election were blunted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who “made clear to the administration” in the fall of 2016  “that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics,” according to the Washington Post.

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While Trump blames Obama for not doing more, he’s done nothing to prevent foreign meddling in future elections. On February 27 — less than two weeks after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 individuals and a trio of Russian companies for “interference operations targeting the United States” — NSA Director Mike Rogers told members of Congress that the Trump administration hasn’t even authorized him to take measures to prevent election meddling going forward. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that “the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy.”