WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Saturday scolded the Obama administration for not responding aggressively enough to Russian hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 US election - cyberattacks underpinning the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers.
Trump's first response to special counsel Robert Mueller's initial charges against Russian government officials for interfering in American politics came in tweets the president posted while at his golf resort in Scotland, two days before a high-stakes summit in Finland with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
"The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration," Trump tweeted. "Why didn't they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?
The indictment announced on Friday said the Russians hacked into Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party and released tens of thousands of private communications as part of a broad conspiracy by the Kremlin to meddle in an American election that ended up putting Trump in the White House.
US intelligence agencies have said Moscow was aiming to help the Trump campaign and harm Clinton's bid.
Trump said this past week during his trip to Europe that he would "absolutely, firmly" raise the election-meddling issue with Putin at their meeting, though he added, "I don't think you'll have any 'Gee, I did it, I did it. You got me!'" Leading Democratic senators asked Trump in a letter on Saturday to scrap the summit "if you are not prepared to make Russia's attack on our election the top issue you will discuss."
Trump's secretary of state, former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, said he was confident the meeting "will put America in a better place. It's very important that they meet." The 29-page indictment lays out how, months before Americans voted in November 2016, Russians schemed to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Stolen emails, many politically damaging for Clinton, appeared on WikiLeaks in the campaign's final stretch.
The charges say the Russian defendants, using a persona known as Guccifer 2.0, in August 2016 contacted a person in touch with the Trump campaign to offer help. And they say that on the same day Trump, in a speech, urged Russia to find Clinton's missing emails, Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into email accounts used by her personal office.
Mueller did not allege that Trump campaign associates were involved in the hacking effort, that Americans were knowingly in touch with Russian intelligence officers or that any vote tallies were altered by hacking.
Trump has repeatedly expressed scepticism about Russian involvement in the hacking while being accused by Democrats of cozying up to Putin.
Trump, hours before the indictment was made public, complained about the Russia investigation hours, saying the "stupidity" was making it "very hard to do something with Russia."