Some Republicans are claiming the new FBI federal indictments in the Russia probe prove that the Obama administration “failed to act” on the intelligence that Moscow’s meddling in U.S. elections began in 2014
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, pointed out Friday that the committee has investigated Russian “influence” on campaigns for “many years.” He said he’s warned others about such threats since 2014, when he was a rank-and-file member of the committee.
“Although the Obama administration failed to act on the committee’s warnings, it’s gratifying to see that Russian agents involved in these operations have now been identified and indicted,” said Nunes. He argued in April 2016 that the United States’ failing to predict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions was “the biggest intelligence failure that we’ve had since 9/11.”
Former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, now a Fox News contributor, suggested Saturday that the indictment shows that at least two top Obama administration intelligence officials -- CIA Director John Brennan and National Intelligence Director James Clapper -- “weren’t on top” of the Russia threat.
A federal grand jury on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The case brought by Robert Mueller, special counsel for the Justice Department, details a plot to wage “information warfare” against the U.S. starting in at least 2014.
The Russian nationals are accused of setting a “strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election,” according to the indictment.
The indictment marks the first charges against Russian nationals as part of Mueller’s probe into whether President Trump and/or his associates colluded with Russians during the 2016 elections.
The Justice Department made clear in its case that the indictments do not allege Russian interference changed the outcome of the 2016 elections nor do they allege Americans were complicit.
“There is no allegation in this 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,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel probe.
The defendants are also accused of spreading derogatory information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, which combined with Rosenstein’s statement prompted a response from Trump.
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!,” he tweeted Friday.
The indictments -- following months of revelations about Russia’s proven attempts to disrupt U.S. elections -- also brought back former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s assertion in a 2010 book that Russia is the U.S.’s biggest geo-political threat.
“You said Russia, not al Qaeda,” then-President Barack Obama charged during a 2012 presidential debate with Romney. “And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War's been over for 20 years."
Chaffetz on Saturday also doubted that the Russian influence changed the outcome of the 2016 elections and said, “I guess Mitt Romney was right.”