Donald Trump has taken the presidency to yet another new low.
In a remarkable set of tweets over the weekend, the commander in chief sounded off on new revelations about the extent of Russia’s campaign to undermine our electoral system. His response: to lash out at his political adversaries and the institutions that are charged with keeping the country safe.
What was missing — tellingly so — was any indication that he plans to do anything against the perpetrators themselves.
Imagine how history would have judged Franklin D. Roosevelt in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, if he had taken to the radio airwaves to declare that Tokyo was “laughing their asses off.” Or if George W. Bush had stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center with a bullhorn and launched a name-calling tirade against the Democrats.
There was no loss of life or destruction of a city in the Russian actions described in a sweeping indictment secured by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But it was an act of war nonetheless, a sneak attack using 21st-century methods.
These are the moments that test a country — and a president. They call for bringing people together in a sense of national purpose against a common adversary.
Once again, Trump has failed that test. He even went so far as to exploit the tragic Parkland, Fla., school shooting, which might have been prevented, had the FBI heeded warnings about the troubled young perpetrator who killed 17 people.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable,” the president tweeted. “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!”
His claim was grotesque and baseless, even by Trumpian standards. His self-absorption is such that he cannot see beyond his own fixation, which is that all of this has no meaning beyond the legitimacy of his own election.
Moscow must indeed be laughing.
Karen Tumulty is a Washington Post columnist covering national politics.
Trump’s tweet storm
President Donald Trump railed against the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election Saturday night into Sunday (Feb. 17-18), sending off a stream of tweets attacking the FBI, CNN, the Democratic Party, his own national security adviser, former President Barack Obama and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
He did not criticize Russia, or voice concern over Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine U.S. elections.
“If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning.
The tweets came after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians on Friday (Feb. 16) for their efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and aid Trump’s campaign. The Twitter broadsides attracted bipartisan push back as Republicans and Democrats expressed frustration that Trump is not taking the Russian threat seriously.
The White House has sought to frame the indictments as vindication, since they do not allege collusion with the Trump campaign, but senior aides have voiced concern that Trump would lash out at the FBI.
Trump confirmed those fears on Saturday night.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. 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!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
That statement stirred bipartisan ire.
“I think it’s an absurd statement. Absurd,” said Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) on CNN.
Others reacted to that tweet, and the rest, with something of an eye-roll.
“Maybe it was a bad idea for him to stay off the golf course,” quipped one senior GOP Hill aide in response to a query from POLITICO.
Trump also went after his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who said the evidence of Russian meddling was “incontrovertible.”
“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!” Trump wrote.
By Sunday morning, he was on to attacking Obama for the nuclear deal with Iran.
“Never gotten over the fact that Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran and nobody in Congress, the FBI or Justice called for an investigation!” Trump wrote.
Then, he moved on to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
“Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!” Trump wrote.
He later added: “Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, lead [sic] by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?”
Trump also took a moment to defend his past statements that seemed to shed doubt on Russia’s role in election-meddling, writing: “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.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia — it never did!”
Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay the evidence of Russian interference, and he said in November that he believed Putin’s denials of meddling.
“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said at the time. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”
The Twitter tirade was notably absent of any calls to action in addressing Russian interference. That absence drew swift criticism, as did Trump’s seeming inability to focus on the meaning of the allegations beyond himself and his own campaign.
“Above all this rhetoric here, we begin losing sight of what is it we’re going to do about the threat of the Russians,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in an interview on CNN. “He never talks about that. It’s all about himself.”
“This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes,” Schiff told CNN, and he went on to question why the White House has refused to implement sanctions that Congress passed by huge majorities to punish Russia.
“It is inexplicable that the president of the United States continues to sit on sanctions that Congress passed, that Congress wants enforced against Russia over this interference,” Schiff said on “State of the Union.”
Under the law, sanctions were to be imposed by Jan. 30, but the White House demurred at that time, saying the threat of sanctions was “serving as a deterrent.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also expressed frustration about Trump’s unwillingness to confront Russia over the meddling.
“Russia’s clearly tried to advance their agenda into the United States,” Lankford told NBC.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called Trump’s unwillingness to address Russian interference going forward “one of the weirdest things in modern American history.”
“How do we have the president of the United States not saying what everybody knows to be true?” the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate continued in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Russia interfered in ‘16, and they’re going to interfere in 2018. … This is a huge deal, and that we don’t have a president speaking out on this issue is a horror show.”
Can you keep track of which school shooting was the last before Parkland?
By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
Los Angeles Times
If you started typing “school shooting” into Google search Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 14), you might have noticed that auto-fill took over and anticipated the next word: “today.” So even the bloodless algorithms within Google recognize that, when one tries to find information about a fresh school shooting, the search needs to be narrowed. Because people are still searching the school shooting from last week. And the one before that. And the one before that. We are six weeks into 2018, and so far there have been at least six shooting incidents on school grounds that have wounded at least one person, including the massacre Wednesday, in which 17 people were reported killed at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
When does an epidemic stop being an epidemic and become just a basic part of regular life? It’s been 19 years since the nation was horrified by the carnage at Columbine in suburban Denver. It’s been just over five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Quick: What was the most recent mass shooting incident (at least four wounded) at a school before the one on Wednesday? Here’s the sick part: There have been so many school shootings that it takes a bit of work to answer what should be an easy question.
Already the folks who support gun control (which includes us) are fuming about the ready availability of firearms in our society. Already the pro-gun folks are pooh-poohing those who think guns are integral to shooting deaths. “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” they like to say. The accurate phrasing should be, “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns do.” At an astonishing rate, a depressing rate, a stomach-churning rate.
As a society we tend to become particularly shocked — at least for a few minutes — when someone shoots down children and young adults while they’re attending classes in what should be a positive, nurturing and safe environment. But even if we’re shocked, we tolerate it. Our outrage is more Pavlovian than visceral. We listen to the bleatings of the gun enthusiasts that, well, if those teachers had guns, then this wouldn’t have been as bad.
Been as bad. Think about that. If a pistol-strapping chemistry teacher had grabbed her .45 and unloaded on today’s gunman after he killed, what, one student? Three? Five? That would be good news?
We do not live in the Wild West. Our schools are not the O.K. Corral. Clint Eastwood isn’t in this movie. We are a violent, disjointed, gun-embracing culture. “But wait!” you might say. “Not me! I hate guns! We need more gun control!” As true as that might be, that’s not the belief of the body politic. Because if it was, we wouldn’t be sitting in front of our television sets wondering what the final death tally will be. Feeling our heartstrings tugged by images of bereft parents. Feeling an impotent rage.
This is what America is today: bloody. The Florida shooting too shall pass, as did Columbine, Sandy Hook, Santa Monica College and so on — all allowed to fade into the backdrop of American memory without a thing being done. This is us. Until we decide finally, forcefully, effectively, that it is not.
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