- On the Sunday morning talk shows, three sitting lawmakers and one former Republican politician all pushed back, in varying degrees, against President Donald Trump’s claim that he is being vindicated in the Russia investigation.
- Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments on Friday of Russians for meddling in the 2016 US election made it clear the interference was designed to boost Trump and undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s chances in the presidential race.
- Sen. James Lankford, Rep. Adam Schiff, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, and radio host Rush Limbaugh all offered their thoughts on Sunday.
Amid President Donald Trump’s blistering tweetstorm Sunday morning after special counsel Robert Mueller announced a fresh round of indictments on Friday, several prominent Democrats and Republicans had some tough words for the president.
Trump’s lengthy string of tweets included support for the conspiracy theory that the Russia investigation distracted the FBI from tips about the Florida shooter, claims that he never said Russia hadn’t meddled in the election (he did), and attacks on Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, whom Trump called “the leakin’ monster of no control.”
The president also reiterated a point he has made after nearly every revelation in the Russia probe – that despite the mounting indictments in the investigation, there is still no evidence against him, and that the probe vindicates him.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Schiff, who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, pushed back on Trump’s self-congratulatory rhetoric.
“This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes,” Schiff told host Dana Bash. “What this indictment sets out is information about only one element of the Russian active measures campaign – that involving their use of social media to influence attitudes, to motivate people to protest, to essentially infiltrate our political system through the cyber sphere.”
On Friday, Mueller’s office indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organisations for “violating US criminal laws in order to interfere with US elections and political processes.” The indictment documents make it clear these violations were carried out in order to boost Trump’s chances in the 2016 election.
“It ought to put to rest for anyone, including the president who continues to call this a witch hunt, that the evidence is now overwhelming and unequivocal,” Schiff said, “and we need to move to protect ourselves from Russian interference in elections that are coming up.”
Combatting future Russian interference
Also on CNN, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper echoed Schiff’s criticism.
“What are we going to do about the threat posed by Russia? He never talks about that,” Clapper told Bash in reference to Trump.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ran against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that Trump is not understanding the most important part of the revelations about Russian meddling.
“The main point to be understood is that what everyone understands except Donald Trump, is that this was not just the 2016 campaign,” Sanders said. “They intend to do this in 2018 … I think people are asking ‘what is going on with this president?'”
Sanders added that the Obama administration should have done more to prevent Russian meddling before Election Day 2016. According to Mueller’s indictment documents, Russian entities and agents were plotting to interfere in the election as far back as 2014.
Todd also interviewed Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who agreed that the reality of Russian interference is indisputable.
“The clear message is Russia did mean to interfere in our election,” Lankford said.
How the indictments reflect on Trump
Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, added that “it is an open question” whether more people in the US were involved in the Russian meddling.
When pressed, the senator did offer a mild rebuke of Trump’s claims about the investigation and the recent indictments.
“No, it’s not necessarily focused on clearing the president,” Lankford said.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump ally, said the president must come to terms with the extent of the Russian interference.
“Part of the operation … was obviously meant to disparage and damage Hillary Clinton,” Christie told host Marth Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week“. “I think everyone’s going to have to come around to the idea that that’s at least part of what the Russians were attempting to do in the election.”
On Trump’s claims the indictments “prove” there was no collusion, Christie said this was still unclear.
“Well, it proves there’s no collusion to this point…” he said. “We have to see where [the special counsel] goes next.”
On “Fox News Sunday,” conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh echoed Christie’s point, but with a catch.
“The danger for the president would be for him to totally embrace this and say he’s vindicated and validate the investigation,” Limbaugh said, adding, “The investigation is all about setting up Donald Trump; he is the target.”
Limbaugh called the entire investigation “a hoax,” like Trump has done in the past with no justifiable basis.
Experts told Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth that the Mueller indictments dealt the White House a massive “black eye”, and should force Trump to impose stricter sanctions on Russia.
“The intelligence community has been unanimous for some time that this is a serious concern, and the White House has been contradicting its own intelligence agencies by claiming that this is a witch hunt,” Stanford Law School professor David Sklansky said.
“But now, it’s not just US intelligence officials – there’s a very detailed bill of particulars that’s been made public, which makes it much more difficult for anybody to credibly suggest that Mueller’s investigation is some kind of hoax.”
Watch clips from the interviews below:
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