Swalwell: Trump 'Got in the Head of Obama Administration Officials' by Calling Election 'Rigged'

Dem rep adds Obama officials didn't do enough responding to Russian meddling

February 12, 2018

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) on Monday blamed then-presidential candidate Donald Trump for the Obama administration not doing more to warn Americans of Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

MSNBC host Ari Melber discussed a new Wired report that revealed many liberals were upset at the Facebook social media website during the 2016 election because they believed that it was helping Trump get elected.

"Part of what the article reports is that there was almost a concern about not wanting to change too much of what people were seeing then because, like a referee that had been criticized for their calls, they had this thing that they were worried about, basically the allegations that they were conservatively biased. Do you buy that theory or do you see that as kind of a smaller thing?" Melber asked.

Swalwell said that he didn't buy that theory and then talked about how lawmakers and voters alike didn't appreciate how aggressively the Russians were meddling in the 2016 election.

"I'll say to you, Ari, I think one of the lessons learned is that we should have been straighter with the American people as soon as this interference campaign happened, but because candidate Trump had put it out there that the election was going to be rigged, that got in the head of Obama administration officials and they felt like if they said the Russians were interfering, that that would prove Donald Trump's theory right. There's a lot to be learned here," Swalwell said.

This is not the first time that the Obama administration has been criticized for its response to Russia meddling during the 2016 election. The Washington Post reported last June that an anonymous senior Obama administration official said they "choked" with an effective response.

"It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend," the official said. "I feel like we sort of choked."

"The White House was mortified and shocked. From national security people there was a sense of immediate introspection, of, ‘Wow, did we mishandle this," another official said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, slammed the Obama administration's response to Russian meddling efforts in the 2016 presidential election last June.

"It was a factor, and it should not have been the most weighty factor," Schiff said. "I think they were concerned about being perceived as interfering in the election, trying to tip the scales for Hillary Clinton. I think they were also concerned about not wanting to play into the narrative that Donald Trump was telling that the election was going to be rigged, even though Donald Trump was talking about a completely different kind of rigging than foreign intervention."

"Given the seriousness of this, I think the administration needed to call out Russia earlier, needed to act to deter and punish Russia earlier, and I think that was a very serious mistake," he added.

Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was also critical of the Obama administration, saying they "choked."