Trump linking Florida shooting to Russia investigation sparks backlash

Aides have cautioned Trump not to tweet about the Russia investigation.

ByABC News
February 19, 2018, 1:10 PM

— -- President Donald Trump felt liberated Friday afternoon, sources close to him told ABC News, when the news broke that the special counsel probing interference in the 2016 presidential election unveiled a grand jury indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups accused of meddling “with U.S. elections and political processes.”

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!” the president tweeted as he boarded Air Force One in Washington where the televisions were tuned into Fox News.

Over the next 45 hours, the president would go on to tweet 11 times - blasting the Russia investigation and blaming Democrats for failing to stop Russian interference, which he once denied.

Then came the bombshell at 11:08 p.m. Saturday. The president connected one of the deadliest mass school shootings in history to the Russia investigation.

“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 Russia collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!” Trump tweeted, following dinner at his Mar-a-Lago club.

For some context, there are about 35,000 people working for the FBI, including about 12,000 agents, according to FBI statistics. The FBI has “a lot of people,” and, “They’re not all working on Russia, I can tell you that. There’s a lot of other stuff going on,” one federal law enforcement official told ABC News.

Aides have long cautioned Trump against tweeting about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, with one senior White House official conceding the weekend tweets were not helpful to the president.

Even the presence of chief of staff John Kelly – known to bring some order to a chaotic White House but who has said his role isn't to stop the president from tweeting – didn’t seem to help contain what soon turned into a twitter tirade.

“Trying to convince him not to tweet? People have been trying for three years – from his family to friends to aides. What makes them think this time would be any different?” said another White House official who expected Trump would ultimately link the deadly shooting to the Russia investigation.

There was bi-partisan backlash. Members of his own party even said he went too far.

“So many folks in the FBI are doing all they can to keep us safe, the reality of it is that they are two separate issues,” Republican Senator Tim Scott said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on CNN.

One survivor of the Florida high school shooting tweeted to the president: “Oh my god. 17 OF MY CLASSMATES AND FRIENDS ARE GONE AND YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO MAKE THIS ABOUT RUSSIA???!! HAVE A DAMN HEART. You can keep all of you fake and meaningless “thoughts and prayers.”

On Friday, shortly after arriving in Florida, Trump traveled to Broward County to visit first responders and victim’s families after last week's shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – a visit that appeared to have a more congratulatory feel focused on praising law enforcement officials.

The Saturday Twitter barrage was just the beginning.

President Trump then took another swipe at the ongoing Russia probes early Sunday morning, tweeting “If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption, and chaos within the U.S. they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

Trump, who has been hesitant to enforce sanctions on Russia for cyber meddling, has yet to speak out against Russia or say what he will do to stop future Russian meddling.

As White House spokesman Hogan Gidley was on Fox News claiming that the Democrats and the media have created more “chaos” than the Russia investigation, Trump’s own national security adviser was acknowledging Russian interference saying “the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain.”

The president even called him out for that comment, saying “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impact or changed by the Russians.”

In what seems like an attempt to shift the narrative, Trump ended his weekend tweeting about Oprah Winfrey, following her appearance on the CBS program “60 Minutes.”

“Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!” he tweeted.

Oprah discussed speculation surrounding a 2020 run, and while not ruling it out, said she really doesn’t think she’s cut out to be president.

“I am actually humbled by the fact that people think that I could be a leader of the free world, but it’s just not in my spirit, it’s not my DNA,” she said.

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