Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to blame the Obama administration on Tuesday for emboldening Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, saying Tuesday that Obama “sent the Kremlin the signal they could get away with almost anything.”
“Maybe stronger leadership would have left the Kremlin less emboldened. Maybe tampering with our democracy wouldn’t have seemed so very tempting. Instead the previous administration sent the Kremlin the signal they could get away with almost anything,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
He added, “So is it surprising that we got the brazen interference detailed in special counsel Mueller’s report?”
McConnell’s comments were part of his speech on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s election meddling in the 2016 election.
“I think many of us now see that President Obama’s approach to Russia could have used some more of the 1980s, more Ronald Reagan and less Jimmy Carter,” he added.
Democrats fired back at McConnell over his remarks, arguing he was trying to “circle the wagon” around Trump.
You and I both took an oath, @SenateMajLdr McConnell. To defend the Constitution of the United States – not to protect @realDonaldTrump. Congress must consider the evidence provided in the Mueller Report and hold the President accountable. https://t.co/H2aoBCl7AD
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) May 7, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that “that’s just not a fact. The case is not closed.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who accused McConnell of “whitewashing” Mueller’s findings, added that McConnell “has not taken the threat of Russia’s election interference as seriously as he should.”
“In the run-up to the 2016 election, when the Obama administration sought to warn state election officials about foreign meddling and designate election systems as ‘critical infrastructure,’ Leader McConnell reportedly delayed for weeks, watered down the letter from congressional leaders and pushed back against the designation,” Schumer added.
McConnell has brushed off the accusation for more than a year that he watered down a letter from leadership.
“This is the same old thing they’ve been saying for weeks. I’ve issued a statement on that a couple of weeks ago, and I’d be happy to send it to you again,” he told reporters last year when asked about the 2016 letter.