Joe Biden makes dubious claim that McConnell ‘stopped Obama’ from calling out Russian interference

January 24, 2018

It seems those who leave politics can’t seem to stay out of it for very long.

Former Vice President Joe Biden called out current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday for refusing to join the Barack Obama administration in condemning Russian interference in the 2016 election prior to the nationwide vote.

While the move was painted as bipartisan by Biden in his Tuesday talk at an event for the Council on Foreign Relations, commentators have suggested that McConnell knew such an announcement would have been perceived as an attack on then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump — and he likely did not want to throw his party’s candidate under the bus.

McConnell’s office has since disputed Biden’s account of the story.

McConnell bowed out?

As evidence of Russian hacking made the rounds through Washington in the weeks before the 2016 election, the Obama administration came to McConnell with a request to issue a bipartisan warning — but the Republican leader refused, Biden said.

“Mitch McConnell wanted no part of having a bipartisan commitment that we would say essentially, ‘Russia is doing this. Stop,’” Biden said. “Bipartisan, so it couldn’t be used as a weapon against the Democratic nominee of a president trying to use the intelligence community.”

Obama and Biden had only limited knowledge of the supposed threat at that time, Biden said. According to the former vice president, both he and Obama had a difficult time deciding whether and how much to say about Russian interference in the weeks leading up to Nov. 8, 2016.

Bipartisan move

As they mulled options on what to do, they decided that a unilateral condemnation of Russia would have been perceived as a partisan attack on Trump. They wanted the announcement to be bipartisan because, according to Biden, they didn’t want to undermine the electoral process.

“The president and I would sit there literally after the [president’s daily brief] and everybody would walk out of the room, and say, ‘What the hell are we going to go?’” Biden said. He recalled telling his colleague:

Now, Mr. President, if you go out there and unilaterally say this is what’s happening, you’re going to be accused of, in this environment, of trying to tip the election. Unless you can give harder data than we have now, you’re going to be in a terrible position, and it’s going to play into the delegitimizing of our electoral process.

Biden said he now regrets not saying more, given the evidence of alleged Russian interference that has come to light since Election Day.

“Had we known what we knew three weeks later, we may have done something more,” he said.

McConnell responds

McConnell’s office has disputed Biden’s story. The senator claims all four congressional leaders signed and sent a letter in September 2016 to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors that warned of attempted hacking.

“The Obama administration requested that the Congressional leaders send this letter and they all did. It’s publicly available on the internet for all to see,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said.

The letter did not mention Russia specifically, according to reports.

Bipartisan bogus

Despite his assertion that he cared more about the electoral process than about his own party winning in 2016, it is clear that Biden’s concern about bipartisanship is bogus; there was nothing stopping Obama or Biden from calling out the Russians themselves.

Additionally, Biden said himself that he felt a unilateral announcement would have looked like a partisan hit on Trump. How would a bipartisan announcement have been any different?

If McConnell had agreed to join them, it would have equated to bad publicity for the Trump campaign. By not playing along, McConnell was simply refusing to do the Democrats’ dirty work for them.

It seems that Biden and Obama reached for “bipartisanship” to disguise their own very partisan motives. Moreover, with evidence coming to light that the Obama administration might have illegally spied on the Trump campaign using controversially obtained warrants, there is little reason to believe that Obama and Biden ever intended to play nice with Republicans.

McConnell and other members of the GOP were smart in avoiding contact with the former administration altogether. They clearly didn’t want what’s best for the country.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.