Trying to turn the focus more to the actions of the Obama Administration in 2016, several Republican Senators joined President Donald Trump in criticizing President Obama’s reaction to Russian meddling in last year’s elections, saying at a hearing that the former President didn’t do enough to raise alarms about Moscow’s efforts.
“He stood idly by – as we heard today – in the 2016 election,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“The Obama Administration did not take the significant actions that were needed,” added Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID). “You know, he was aware that this was going on.”
The comments from GOP Senators came after a series of tweets in recent days by the President, where Mr. Trump publicly acknowledged that there had been meddling by the Russians, as he pointed the finger of blame squarely at the former President for allowing it.
The hearing represented the most direct criticism that President Obama has received in Congress on the matter.
“I would call it behind the scenes, ineffective and tardy,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
“It wasn’t really until after the elections that sanctions were imposed,” Collins added.
But at the same hearing, President Trump’s dealings with Moscow did not escape notice, as a key witness bemoaned the current administration’s lack of focus on Russian meddling.
“The Obama Administration should have taken greater action, but the more pertinent question today is what our current President is not doing,” said Nicholas Burns, a former State Department official who served in key posts for Presidents of both parties.
Burns said it was dismaying that “President Trump continues to deny the undeniable fact that Russia launched a major cyber attack against the United States.”
Burns, who was a Russian expert for the first President Bush, and a NATO official for the second Bush Administration, did not spare the Obama Administration either.
“We should have had a more immediate response that was painful to the Russians,” Burns said.
“I think that President Obama – with hindsight – should have acted more resolutely,” Burns added.
In an extended exchange, Sen. Risch tried to get Burns to lay the blame for election interference squarely on President Obama.
“Who was President of the United States when that occurred?” Risch asked.
“That was President Obama – as you know,” Burns said with a note of disdain in his voice, as he circled back at times to raise questions about why President Trump has said so little about Russian interference.
“President Trump has refused to launch an investigation of his own,” Burns said. “He’s not made this an issue in our relations with the Russians.”