DonkeyHotey / Flickr trump mcconnell ryan caricature...
DonkeyHotey / Flickr

Donald Trump babbled last Spring, “Obama knew about Russia and he did nothing.” He did nothing because Mitch McConnell stopped him. Joe Biden said Tuesday that Mitch McConnell prevented the Obama administration from revealing Russian interference in the 2016 election by refusing to sign a bipartisan statement of condemnation. Obama’s hands were then effectively tied because he knew all too well how it would look if he spoke out unilaterally on the subject. Politico:

Biden said he and former President Barack Obama worried that without a united front of bipartisanship, speaking out before the election would undermine the legitimacy of the election and American institutions in a way that would play into the Russians’ larger ambitions.

“Can you imagine if the president called a press conference in October, with this fella, Bannon, and company, and said, ‘Tell you what: Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it,’” Biden said. “What do you think would have happened? Would things have gotten better, or would it further look like we were trying to delegitimize the electoral process, because of our opponent?”

McConnell’s office disputed this account, pointing to a letter signed by all four congressional leaders in September 2016 and sent to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors, urging cybersecurity precautions in light of reports of attempted hacking.

McConnell’s letter spoke in general terms of hacking, but did not mention Russian interference or specifics of cyberbots, social media, or any other details that have subsequently come to light about exactly how the 2016 election was interfered with.

Obama’s White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said, “Unfortunately, as is well documented, Senator McConnell was unwilling to help — only making matters worse.”

Biden told Tuesday’s gathering that there was a “constant tightrope,” with the Obama administration unable to decide what would count as saying too little or too much.

“The president and I would sit there literally after the [presidential daily briefing], after everyone had left the room, and say, ‘What the hell are we going to do?’” Biden recalled.

Biden also said, with respect to McConnell’s refusal to sign the bipartisan letter of condemnation, “the die had been cast … this was all about the political play.” Makes you wonder exactly how much McConnell knew, doesn’t it? 

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