Instead of being outraged that Vladimir Putin’s operatives waged a sophisticated intelligence operation in the United States to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the White House responded on Saturday by attacking Democrats and members of the news media.
Appearing on Fox & Friends, Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said, “There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians. And that’s the Democrats and the mainstream media, who continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year. And quite frankly, Americans should be outraged by that.”
To put this in context, the White House’s official position on a damning indictment announced Friday against 13 Russian operatives and three Russian entities for conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and identity theft, among other charges, is to downplay the alleged crimes and accuse members of a rival political party and journalists of somehow committing worse acts. And this comes ahead of midterm elections in the U.S. in which members of the intelligence community already have warned that the Russians are going to do it again. We’re in uncharted waters with this one.
It’s also worth pointing out, again, that President Trump has refused to impose sanctions on Russia for meddling in the U.S. election, despite it being the law after it was passed in Congress by a vote of 517–5, and then signed by Trump himself last year. Instead, the White House released a list of Russian oligarchs who have benefited under Putin’s reign.
Coupled with the White House spokesman’s attacks on Democrats and the news media, Trump unleashed another tweet storm from his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he’s spending the weekend, claiming that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s comments on the indictment vindicate Trump and his administration.
“‘Charges Deal Don A Big Win,’” written by Michael Goodwin of the @nypost, succinctly states that ‘the Russians had no impact on the election results.’ There was no Collusion with the Trump Campaign. ‘She lost the old-fashioned way, by being a terrible candidate. Case closed,” Trump (or someone with his phone) tweeted.
That was followed by (emphasis mine): “Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein stated at the News Conference: ‘There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
And: “Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know!”
The president then tweeted twice about comments from Rob Goldman, vice president of ads at Facebook, who argued that Russia’s meddling was more about sowing chaos in the U.S. than it was about electing Trump.
“The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s son Donald Jr. also got in on the action on Friday, tweeting out a poll that asked, “…how long will the leftist witch hunt against @realDonaldTrump continue?”
During all of this time, the two Trumps devoted a total of zero characters on Twitter to condemning Putin or the Russian operatives under indictment, or to announcing what steps the administration would take to secure the upcoming midterm elections. Or, for that matter, to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team for conducting the investigation and securing an indictment against the alleged co-conspirators.