- President Donald Trump had one of his most rambunctious weekends in months.
- He went on a huge Russia tweetstorm.
- He was in Florida on the heels of the Parkland school shooting.
- Trump visited victims and first responders to the violent attack, and his response to the shooting earned criticism.
President Donald Trump had one of his most rambunctious weekends in months over the Presidents Day holiday, ranting at length about everything from the Russia investigations to Oprah Winfrey.
In three days, Trump:
- Alleged that the FBI was unable to follow up on the suspected Florida high school shooter because the organisation was too busy investigating his campaign for possible ties to Russia;
- Blasted “Liddle” Adam Schiff, the ‘leakin’ monster” and ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee;
- Said Moscow was “laughing their asses off” at the discord Russian electoral interference helped sow in the US;
- And went after a “very insecure” Oprah Winfrey, the mogul who has been rumoured to be considering a 2020 presidential bid.
Trump also raised eyebrows during his visits with victims and first responders of the Florida shooting, and he took aim at former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton related to the Russia investigation.
The weekend was a far cry from his start to the year, when Trump stayed conspicuously quiet on Twitter while staying on message during a series of high-profile speeches and events.
‘I would have said without me, they never would have found him’
Trump began his weekend trip to Florida by stopping by the nearby Broward County community torn by the nation’s latest deadly mass shooting. 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz is suspected of fatally shooting 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In an address to the nation on Thursday, Trump sought to speak directly to “America’s children” and said “it is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.”
So he headed south to Parkland, Florida, Friday to meet with victims and first responders, whom he effusively praised.
“Incredible job, and everybody is talking about it,” Trump said of the response as he was surrounded by dozens of officers at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
He called the officers’ response time an “incredible thing” and suggested that the law enforcement agents who responded to the shooting deserve a raise. In another exchange, Michael Leonard, the officer who located Cruz and handcuffed him, spent roughly 15 seconds explaining how he and his team apprehended the shooter.
Trump joked that, if he caught the shooter, he would have taken much more credit.
“That was so modest. I would have told it much differently,” Trump said. “I would have said without me, they never would have found him.”
Trump posted photos on his Instagram account from his visit to the hospital, where he met with shooting victims, their families, and medical staff.
FEBRUARY 16, 2018 Our entire Nation, with one heavy heart, continues to pray for the victims and their families in Parkland, Florida. To teachers, law enforcement, first responders and medical professionals who responded so bravely in the face of danger: We THANK YOU for your courage — and we are here for you, ALWAYS! Our administration is working closely with local authorities to investigate the shooting and learn everything we can. We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health. God Bless You All — and THANK YOU!
Some thought the light-hearted mood was inappropriate for a presidential follow-up on one of the deadliest school shootings in US history.
The president's new Twitter banner is a photo of him smiling and giving a thumbs up while meeting tonight with police officers who responded to the massacre of 17 people, most of them students, at a high school in Parkland pic.twitter.com/3NoH95CqKQ
— Mark Berman (@markberman) February 17, 2018
Trump’s meeting with the first responders was a somber occasion to reflect on a national tragedy. It is now his twitter handle photo, in which he’s smiling with his thumbs up.
— Sam Stein (@samstein) February 17, 2018
Others, including some Trump supporters, took issue with criticism, pointing to family members who smiled in one photo.
So if Trump is terrible for smiling in the hospital, are you also going to level the same charge against this victim and her entire family? pic.twitter.com/GYymaKkEoc
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) February 17, 2018
‘They are laughing their asses off in Moscow’
In a press conference announcing the special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments against 13 Russian individuals, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said there was “no allegation in the indictment” that an American knowingly participated in the alleged crimes.
That sentence led Trump to claim vindication in the whole affair. The indictments, however, did not touch on the election-related hacking, such as when the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta had their emails stolen and leaked through channels like WikiLeaks.
On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, Trump dug in on the Russia news – offering up one of his lengthiest tweetstorms in months.
The president suggested Saturday that the indictments proved he or his campaign couldn’t have been involved in a Russian effort to meddle in an election because the effort began in 2014, which was at least six months before he would announce his bid for the presidency in June 2015.
“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,” he wrote. “Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know!”
This line of defence was questioned by some who noted that Trump had been considering his bid for the presidency long before that June 2015 announcement.
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) February 17, 2018
Trump fired off another 10 tweets on the subject through the end of the holiday weekend.
“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,'” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. “The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!”
Trump insisted that the Russians “succeeded beyond their wildest dreams” in creating discord in the US.
“They are laughing their asses off in Moscow,” he continued. “Get smart America!”
The indictments described the internet tactics of several Russian-based operatives who sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through various social media operations that encouraged voters to support Trump, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
In response, Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster said evidence Russia interfered in the election was “incontrovertible.”
That led Trump to scold his top adviser. McMaster, he said, “forgot to say” the electoral results “were not impacted or changed by the Russians.”
Then he took aim at the FBI, echoing one of the most prominent conspiracies swirling on some parts of the right wing. He claimed the FBI “missed” the Florida school shooter because it was investigating his campaign for ties to Russia.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter,” he wrote Saturday just before midnight. “This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
Not only does the FBI have more than 35,000 employees and run hundreds of investigations simultaneously, but the special counsel’s investigation is being run outside of the main Justice Department. Promoting the theory runs in line with Trump’s repeated allegation that leaders within the DOJ and FBI hold anti-Trump biases.
Continuing the tweetstorm Sunday morning, Trump responded to an interview from Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff said the Obama administration should have acted more forcefully in responding to alleged Russian election interference when first made aware of the intelligence community’s assessment prior to the November 2016 vote.
“Finally, Liddle’ Adam B. Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election,” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. “He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!”
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