President Donald Trump, after being criticized for his response to Russia’s election meddling, challenged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into the Obama administration for failing to do enough to stop the 2016 election foreign interference.
The tweet is the latest in a series where Trump faults former President Barack Obama for not doing enough to stop Russian meddling, but the first time Trump has suggested that Sessions — the man he picked to lead the Justice Department but has maintained a grudge against for the better part of a year — wasn’t doing enough.
“Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation?” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Session!”
Trump misspelled his longtime supporter’s name: It’s Sessions, not Session. He later deleted the original tweet and corrected the spelling error.
The Justice Department is tasked with investigating crimes committed in the United States, making Trump’s tweet a suggestion that the former Obama administration committed a crime by not stopping Russia.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Trump’s tweet.
Trump and Sessions were in the Oval Office together on Tuesday during an event honoring law enforcement officials. The two, according to a source, did not interact much while taking photos.
Grudge against Sessions
Trump has nursed a grudge against Sessions ever since the former Alabama senator decided to recuse himself from all Justice Department investigations into the 2016 campaign, including the ongoing Russia probe.
Last year he slammed Sessions on Twitter for taking “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers” and described his as “beleaguered” in a tweet that asked why he wasn’t “looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?”
Even still, Sessions has remained in the administration despite regularly drawing Trump’s ire.
It was clear to people Trump was speaking with over the weekend and sources with knowledge of his feelings, though, that his disdain for Sessions hasn’t gone away.
One person said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s televised announcement Friday of indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election reignited Trump’s anger at Sessions.
“He will never get over Sessions recusing himself,” a person familiar with the President’s thinking said.
The President also has come to believe Sessions is in over his head at the Justice Department, this person says.
It’s unlikely, though, that Sessions is going anywhere soon, given how any confirmation battle for a new attorney general would be a protracted and deeply partisan fight.
Trump and his top aides, in an attempt to protect the President and the White House from a steady stream of stories about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into election meddling, has started to fault the Obama administration for not doing enough when the former president was in control.
“He has been tougher on Russia in the first year than Obama was in eight years combined,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during Tuesday’s White House briefing.
While Trump and even some Democrats have criticized the Obama administration for not speaking up enough on Russia’s actions before the election, Obama did take some steps to reprimand the country.
Obama confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in China in 2016, something Trump has yet to forcefully do in meetings with the Russian leader. Trump and Putin discussed election interference in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017. Trump later said he thought the Russian leader was earnest when he denied any election meddling.
During his last two years in office, Obama also imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for election meddling, kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Kremlin compounds in the United States.
Trump has yet to impose sanctions overwhelmingly passed by Congress last year and missed deadlines to identify which Russian individuals and entities would be on the sanctions list. Last month, the Trump administration decided against implementing the sanctions against Russia and instead published a list of already prominent Russian oligarchs.
Sanders suggested on Tuesday that more action to confront Russia was soon to be released.