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President Trump posed a question Monday after a weekend of frequent tweeting about the Russia probe: Why didn't President Obama take action over Russian interference in the 2016 election?

The backdrop: The Obama administration knew about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election months before Election Day, and Obama was briefed in August 2016 on intelligence that Putin himself was involved, the Washington Post reports. Still, there were limitations to what they could do, former administration officials say.

Timeline
  • May 2016: James Clapper, then-director of national intelligence, issues a warning about cyber threats against the campaigns. He doesn't cite Russia.
  • July 2016:
    • The DNC announces it has been breached by Russian hackers. Trump says the DNC hacked itself to distract from controversies. He later invites Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton's emails.
    • The FBI opens an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
    • Obama, in an interview with NBC, says experts attribute the DNC hack to the Russians.
  • August 2016: Obama receives top secret intelligence file detailing Putin's direct involvement in Russian election meddling.
  • September 2016: U.S. intelligence agencies reach unanimous agreement regarding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
    • At a G20 meeting in Huangzhou, China, Obama pulls Putin aside and warns him directly “to cut it out."
    • Clapper confirms that Russia was behind the DNC hack. Trump has by now been briefed on the matter but continues to publicly call it a hoax.
  • October 2016: At Obama's direction, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issue a public statement saying, “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
    • Obama also attributes the hack of John Podesta's emails to Russia.
  • December 2016: Obama approves a set of relatively modest — and primarily symbolic — sanctions, including expelling 35 Russian diplomats and closing two compounds in Maryland. The administration had considered several steeper measures including "cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could 'crater' the Russian economy," per the Post.
What they're saying
  • "It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view [on election meddling]. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump," the Post reports.
  • Officials close to Obama told the Post that by August it was too late to prevent emails from being leaked, and that they believed Obama's direct warning to Putin would deter the Kremlin from taking bigger steps, such as tampering with voting systems.
  • And they were concerned that any response from the U.S. would either provoke Russia to ramp up its own efforts or appear as though the administration was attempting to tip the scales for Clinton.
  • But Obama was “deeply concerned and wanted as much information as fast as possible ... He wanted the entire intelligence community all over this," a former administration official told the Post.
“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend," a senior Obama official said to the Post. "I feel like we sort of choked.”

Go deeper

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has be charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

4 hours ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.