A New Jersey Democratic congressional candidate on Wednesday said the Obama administration "should have done more" during the 2016 campaign in response to Russian election interference.
Tom Malinowski, who formerly served in the Obama administration as the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" where he discussed President Donald Trump's recent comments at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The remarks, which failed to condemn Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, drew backlash from many Republicans and Democrats on Monday.
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Willie Geist–filling in for hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski–asked Malinowski about what issues voters in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District are concerned about, prompting the candidate to point to health care, taxes, and transportation. He then pivoted to address Trump's comments at the summit and said they give Democratic candidates like him–those with a background in national security–an opportunity to speak up on behalf of the Democratic Party .
"The Democratic Party is now the party of patriotism in this country, the party that is willing to defend our country against our true foreign adversaries, the party of law enforcement in this country that is willing to trust the FBI over Fox News, that will believe our intelligence community when they say our country is under attack," Malinowski said.
He was then asked about the Obama administration's response to the Russia hacking at the Democratic National Committee and whether it was fair to blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) for the Obama administration's lack of a response, noting many Democrats blamed the GOP senator because he wouldn't sign a bipartisan agreement.
"I think it's fair to blame McConnell because I think we need this to be bipartisan in the United States of America. We need to stand together when our country is under attack and, you know, let's talk about what's happening right now," Malinowski said.
Geist asked whether Trump was correct to say the Obama administration should have done more and whether the administration regretted not doing more to hold Russia accountable.
"I believe we should have done more, actually," Malinowski said.
"Why didn't we?" Geist asked.
"I think it was very, very difficult to act on an issue like this when there wasn't complete bipartisan support. Let's talk about what's happening now because this is a little bit like Harry Truman saying, ‘Pearl Harbor happened on my predecessor's watch, so I wash my hands of it,' Malinowski said. "We need to defend our country right now and the House Republican leadership in particular, let's not forget, has been 100 percent complicit in President Trump's attacks on the FBI, on our intelligence community from day one."
Malinowski is running to unseat four-term Rep. Leonard Lance (R., N.J.) during the general election in November.