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Trump blames Florida school shooting on Russia investigation

The president said in a tweet that the FBI “missed” a tip about Nikolas Cruz because it was busy with the Russia investigation.

President Trump addresses the nation after the February 14 school shooting in Florida that killed 17.
President Trump addresses the nation after the February 14 school shooting in Florida that killed 17.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

President Donald Trump’s attacks on the FBI hit a new low on Saturday evening, when the president suggested in a tweet that the bureau had failed to prevent Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Florida high school because of its ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. While it’s true that the FBI had been alerted about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, there’s absolutely no evidence that the bureau missed anything because of its investigation into the Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable,” Trump wrote. “They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

The FBI acknowledged on Friday that a person close to Cruz contacted their tip line on January 5, a month before the shooting, to provide information about his gun ownership, desire to kill people, and disturbing behavior. FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement that he is investigating what happened.

The GOP, however, isn’t happy. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to Wray asking the bureau to brief their committees on why the FBI didn’t act on the tip, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also asked the agency to brief his staffers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott this week went so far as to call for Wray’s resignation over the matter. “We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act,” he said.

On Saturday, at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Emma Gonzalez, a student who survived the Parkland shooting, delivered an impassioned speech and addressed the president directly. (Beyond blaming the FBI, Trump on Thursday tweeted that neighbors and classmates knew Cruz “was a big problem” and should have reported him to authorities — which they did.) “How about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the shooter’s fault?” she asked. “If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.”

Trump on Saturday also attempted to blame the Parkland shooting on Democrats’ inaction on gun control, likening it to the immigration debate and what to do about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) — which the Senate tried and failed to write a bill on this week. The president asked why Democrats didn’t pass gun control legislation under Obama. “Because they didn’t want to, and now they just talk!” he wrote. It was a transparent and disingenuous misreading of political blockages created almost entirely by Republicans as a matter of policy.

The Justice Department’s Friday indictments appear to have gotten under Trump’s skin

On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team indicted 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies, accusing them of conspiring to interfere with “US political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” The White House’s immediate response was to declare, “NO COLLUSION!” Blanket denials, obviously, don’t hold the same weight as investigative fact-finding.

Trump has fired off multiple tweets about what the indictments do and do not mean since Friday. He pointed out that efforts to influence the election began in 2014, before he started running for president. (It’s worth noting, however, that Trump floated the possibility of a presidential run that year, promising in a tweet to “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”)

What’s more surprising is that in his tweetstorm, the president took a jab at his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. At a conference on Saturday in Munich, McMaster said that evidence of Russian meddling is “incontrovertible” — but the same day, Trump tweeted a correction, claiming that McMaster “forgot to say” that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted and that it was instead Hillary Clinton and Democrats who colluded. (It’s not clear exactly what the effect of Russian meddling was on the election outcome, and there is no evidence that Clinton’s campaign worked with Russia to get her elected.) It is surprising the president would seek to undermine one of the top national security figures in his administration, especially while there’s an ongoing investigation that concerns a matter of national security.

On Sunday morning, Trump denied ever dismissing the Russia investigation in another tweet. (As the Daily Beast points out, last fall he told reporters after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, “I really believe” Putin when he says he did not meddle in the election.) In a different tweet that morning, Trump admired his 2016 presidential bid. “Wasn’t I a great candidate?” he asked, presumably rhetorically. He sent another tweet later in the day, saying Russians are probably “laughing their asses off in Moscow.” Which, to be honest, they might be — just not for the reasons Trump seems to think.

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