- Scott Olson/Getty Images
President Donald Trump said in a Thursday morning tweetstorm that former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, had vindicated him regarding the ongoing Russia investigation.
Trump also asked why the Obama administration “didn’t stop” Russia if it found the nation to be meddling in the 2016 election.
Johnson was the “latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia,” Trump tweeted.
During Johnson’s testimony, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina asked the former homeland security secretary whether before he left the department in January he saw “any evidence that Donald Trump or any member of his campaign colluded, conspired, or coordinated with the Russians or anyone else to infiltrate or impact our voter infrastructure?”
Johnson said he didn’t.
“Not beyond what has been out there, open-source, and not beyond anything that I’m sure this committee has already seen and heard before directly from the intelligence community,” Johnson said. “So anything I’d have on that is derivative of what the intelligence community has – and the law enforcement community.”
Gowdy replied: “Most of the information currently available was available in the fall of 2016. Most of the intelligence products that are relied upon to form certain assessments, that underlying data was available in 2016, some of it before the election.”
Johnson said he was “not in a position to agree or disagree with that” because he didn’t “have access anymore to intelligence over the last five months.”
Of course, the investigation has taken new turns since Johnson left office.
In March, James Comey, then the FBI director, publicly announced that the FBI was investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded in any way with Russian officials during the election. Trump’s fired Comey in May, leading to the hiring of a special counsel to oversee the probe.
As homeland security secretary, Johnson lacked access to much of the intelligence being gathered.
Trump similarly suggested in May that he was vindicated when former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he was not aware of the FBI’s investigation and was not privy to any intelligence gathered in the months after he left in January.
After saying Johnson had vindicated him, Trump aimed his tweetstorm at the Obama administration and Democrats.
“By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin,” he wrote. “Why didn’t they stop them?”
He followed up by calling the assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election “a big Dem HOAX!” even though it has the backing of the major US intelligence agencies, politicians on both sides of the aisle, and members of Trump’s administration.
“Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election),” he wrote. “It’s all a big Dem HOAX!”
“Why did the DNC REFUSE to turn over its Server to the FBI, and still hasn’t?” he continued. “It’s all a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!”
When asked Tuesday whether Trump believed that Russia interfered in the election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he could not give a definitive answer because he had not asked Trump about it since he took office in January.
Johnson was pressed during Wednesday’s hearing about why more was not done to combat Russia’s meddling efforts. He acknowledged that the FBI delayed notification to DHS about the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee last year.
“In retrospect, it would be easy for me to say that I should have bought a sleeping bag and camped out in front of the DNC in late summer – with the benefit of hindsight,” he said.
In response to Trump’s tweets, Adrienne Watson, the deputy communications director for the DNC, said the committee “has and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement on Russia’s interference in our election.”
“The DNC has been in regular contact with the FBI for many months, and the FBI confirmed the DNC has provided all the information it needed to make its assessment,” Watson said in a statement. “The intelligence community has no doubt that the Russians attacked the DNC in an effort to disrupt our election. The only person who disputes this is Donald Trump, who has shown zero interest in protecting our country from future attacks and is now trying to distract Americans from his devastating healthcare repeal.”
Elsewhere Thursday, CNN reported, citing multiple sources, that National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Senate investigators in separate meetings last week that Trump suggested they should announce that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
Coats and Rogers described the suggestion as odd and uncomfortable but said it was not an order. Neither man acted on Trump’s suggestion.