Trump’s tweet came a day after Jeh Johnson, who served as secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama, testified that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed officials to interfere in the U.S. election. The intrusion, Johnson said, was ”a fact, plain and simple.”
Johnson’s testimony on Russian intrusion is consistent with the assessment of several U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency. Despite the overwhelming consensus within the intelligence community, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that he didn’t know if Trump believed Russia was behind the attacks.
Members of the House Intelligence Committee pressed Johnson as to why the Obama administration didn’t move more quickly to expose Russian influence during the presidential campaign. Johnson defended the administration, saying its members were being cautious to avoid the appearance that they were trying to influence the campaign.
He noted that James Clapper, then the director of national intelligence, in October released a statement about Russian interference that went largely ignored. Johnson also said his department offered to help the Democratic National Committee secure its systems after hackers breached it last summer, but that the DNC declined.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) pressed Johnson to say whether he believed there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers, something a special prosecutor is now investigating. Johnson declined to answer, saying he no longer had access to the necessary intelligence. Trump, who has called the Russia inquiry a “witch hunt” and strongly pushed back against any suggestion of collusion, tweeted Thursday that he had been exonerated.
Trump’s tweets came shortly after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) suggested on “Fox and Friends” that the Trump administration should blame Russian interference on the Obama administration.
“For Jeh Johnson to say the Russians had successfully done something, he had to say he failed as Homeland Security chief,” he said. “We should’ve turned it back on the Obama administration from Day One and said, ‘Are you telling us that you are so incompetent that for six months the Russians were doing something and you didn’t know it?’ They would have had to have said, ‘Oh no, we’re not that incompetent.’”