President Donald Trump, ensconced in his opulent private club of Mar-a-Lago this weekend, had a screed of combative thoughts.
None, however, offered answers.
Here in South Florida, the weekend air was filled with raw emotion in the wake of the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Local television broadcasts featured searing calls to action and demonstrations from students and parents alike.
Trump, inside his estate and restrained from golfing for two straight days for fear of bad optics, was seemingly following along - and unleashed on Twitter.
Just 40 miles north of Parkland, the President blasted the FBI for missing warning signs about the shooter — and promptly turned the subject back to himself by suggesting the bureau was too preoccupied with the Russia investigation and could have prevented the shooting.
The string of rants - which aides were given no heads up about - made clear that if anyone was preoccupied by Russia, it was surely the President.
With a pair of national crises before him — another deadly shooting and another wave of evidence that Russia interfered in an American election — Trump demonstrated Sunday morning which was occupying more of his attention: Rather than outlining steps to protect the nation against more shootings or tampering in upcoming elections, he made the moment about himself.
Trump has yet to detail what he or his administration plan to do to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller, in a thorough indictment released Friday, detailed how hundreds of Russian operatives – including a close associate to Russian President Vladimir Putin – interfered in the election by organizing political events and used social media to tout Trump and criticize Hillary Clinton.
In a series of tweets – over a dozen since the indictment was revealed – Trump has repeatedly said his 2016 campaign did not collude with Russian operatives (“no collusion!” he wrote), labeled Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, a “leakin’ monster of no control” and lamented the fact that “they are laughing their asses off in Moscow.”
The tweets come hours before Trump will meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan, a lawmaker who has tried to avoid commenting on the President’s Twitter missives. The messages threaten to overshadow a previously planned meeting on the party’s legislative agenda and mid-term election outlook.
And they are a sign that neither embattled White House chief of staff John Kelly — on property for the weekend at Mar-a-Lago — or other advisers who met with the president on Saturday can keep him on track.
“If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow,” he wrote. “Get smart America!
The messages shed light on a President who has been almost entirely focused on the past – how the Russian allegations impact the legitimacy of his presidency and accusations against his 2016 campaign – and not how he will work to stop Russia from meddling in the future.
In a written statement released Friday, Trump’s prescription for combating Russia was for the country to “come together as Americans” and “stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions.”
The statement did not detail how his administration would penalize the country for their 2016 efforts.
The weekend messages also show that there is little Trump won’t use to undercut Mueller’s investigation.
Late on Saturday night, Trump linked the admitted mistake by the FBI around last week’s school shooting in Parkland with the Russia investigation. The Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 people.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable,” he 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 announced on Friday that they failed to act on a tip about Nikolas Cruz, the confessed shooter in the Parkland school massacre. A person close to Cruz, according to the FBI, contacted them on February 5 to report concerns. But the bureau did not appropriately follow established protocols in following up on the tip.
Trump echoed Fox News and other conservative media who seized on the admitted mistake, using it as the latest data point in the President’s months long campaign to undercut Mueller’s investigation.
Trump’s issues with Mueller have long been clear: He views any suggestion that Russia helped tip the election in his favor as an insinuation that he isn’t a legitimate president, a charge that openly frustrates him.
But by ignoring Russia’s impact on the election, Trump has done little to confront Putin for meddling.
The Trump administration decided last month not to impose new sanctions on Russian individuals for meddling in the 2016 election, bucking Congress by instead putting out a “name and shame” list of prominent Russian business and political figures.
Trump has raised questions as to whether Russia actually meddled in the election by repeatedly calling it a hoax and CNN reported this month that Trump remains unconvinced that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, even as his intelligence chiefs unanimously told a Senate panel Tuesday that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018.
The President also told reporters in Vietnam last year that he accepts Putin’s denials on 2016 meddling.
Trump even went as far as to undercut his own national security adviser via Twitter this weekend, telling his 48 million followers that “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems.”
McMaster told an audience in Munich, Germany, that the Mueller indictments released Friday show evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is “now really incontrovertible.”
The burst of tweets may offer a window into the president’s thinking. His decision to go after his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, underscored what aides have been describing in recent days as a souring relationship.