WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump took a swipe at his attorney general Wednesday, asking in a Twitter post why Jeff Sessions has not been investigating Democrats for Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama administration, right up to January 20th, why aren't they the subject of the investigation?" he wrote, referring to his predecessor Barack Obama. "Why didn't Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren't Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Session!"
Top Democrats, meanwhile, called on Congress to give the FBI $300 million to fight potential foreign interference in this year's midterm election.
In his tweet, Trump revived his offensive on Sessions, whom he once called "beleaguered," and continued his dayslong Twitter comments on the ongoing special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling. It was the latest instance of the president publicly criticizing federal law enforcement officials.
The president regularly uses Twitter to question why the Justice Department is not investigating his political opponents.
Trump also has been questioning why the Obama administration did not do more to stop Russian interference, and he has said that his administration has been tougher on Russia than that of his predecessor.
But during the 2016 campaign, Obama called out Russia for political interference when much less was known about it and followed up after the election by expelling 35 Russian diplomats suspected of being intelligence officers.
Trump has denied that Russia was involved in the 2016 election meddling. But an indictment announced last week against 13 Russians and three companies described a sophisticated, multiyear Russian influence campaign designed to sow discord across the U.S. democratic process. On Tuesday, special counsel Robert Mueller announced charges against the 19th person in the sprawling probe that has dogged Trump's presidency.
On Wednesday, the special counsel filed new charges in the case against onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former deputy, Rick Gates, according to a sealed court filing.
The filing in Washington federal court doesn't specify the nature of the charges or whether it expanded the case against both men or added others. Manafort and Gates were indicted in October over money laundering and failing to register for political consulting work performed in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Mueller's office announced a guilty plea against a London-based lawyer who worked with Manafort and Gates on a report that defended the conviction of a former Ukrainian prime minister, despite international criticism that it was politically motivated.
Mueller's office had hinted at possible new charges in a separate filing last week. In that document opposing more lenient bail terms, prosecutors said Manafort engaged in a "series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies" not previously charged.
Those frauds relate to a mortgage on a Virginia property that Manafort seeks to pledge to secure his $10 million bail, according to the filing. He "provided the bank with doctored profit and loss statements" from his company for 2015 and 2016, while "overstating its income by millions of dollars," prosecutors said.
As suspects mount in the Russia probe, Trump has indicated that he does not think Sessions -- one of his earliest supporters -- has done enough to protect him. The president has publicly said he never would have hired Sessions if he knew the attorney general would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
The attorney general's recusal last year was the first in a series of steps that led to Mueller's appointment. Trump had once considered firing Mueller, but he backed down after the objection of a senior adviser. In recent months, Trump has become more critical of federal law enforcement officials and has called senior officials at the FBI biased against him.
LETTER TO REPUBLICANS
The letter sent Wednesday by the House and Senate minority leaders -- Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., respectively -- and top Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees calls on Republicans to provide the funding as part of "a robust and urgent response" to the Russian government's attempts to interfere in American elections.
"Congress must respond immediately to attacks on our democracy by a foreign adversary," the Democrats wrote. "We urge you to join us in vigorously combating efforts to sow discord in our country and support our state and local officials with the critical resources they need to protect our election systems."
Democrats say they are seeking $300 million more for resources and manpower to counter foreign influence operations in the United States, "especially Russian operatives operating on our social media platforms."
They also call for an unspecified but "substantial" increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security and the Election Assistance Commission's work with state and local governments to bolster the security of election infrastructure, including voter databases and voting machines.
Some state and local elections officials have complained in recent days that federal authorities are not giving them access to federal information on specific threats to voter databases, voting machines and other information about how hackers might try to manipulate information.
"This issue is simply too important to sit back and watch state governments and the federal government pass responsibility back and forth," Democrats wrote in their report. "The federal government should provide the funds necessary for states to defend themselves."
A spending bill is set to be passed by March 23, when current government spending expires. A temporary spending bill passed last month set the spending levels that House and Senate appropriators are now working to fulfill. The omnibus spending bill is set to be the only significant must-pass bill to clear Congress early this year, putting pressure on both parties to pack it with political wins.
The figure sought by Democrats was requested in consultation with FBI leadership, according to senior aides familiar with their talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.
Information for this article was contributed by Eileen Sullivan of The New York Times; by staff members of The Associated Press; by Andrew Harris and David Voreacos of Bloomberg News; and by Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post.
A Section on 02/22/2018
Print Headline: Trump faults Sessions again on Russia probe