President Donald Trump attacked the FBI and lawmakers probing suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and said an excessive focus on Russia led federal investigators to miss signs that could have prevented a deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school.
In a series of tweets over the weekend sent from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump said congressional investigations and political "hatred" showed that Russia had succeeded in sowing "discord, disruption and chaos" in the United States.
He accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of failing to do enough to stop Russian election interference.
"They are laughing their asses off in Moscow," Trump tweeted on Sunday morning.
However, student survivors of the shooting reacted angrily.
"Oh my god. 17 OF MY CLASSMATES AND FRIENDS ARE GONE AND YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO MAKE THIS ABOUT RUSSIA???!!," Morgan Williams, a 16-year-old junior, tweeted in response to Trump's message. "HAVE A DAMN HEART."
The FBI has acknowledged it failed to act on a tip warning that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, 19, possessed a gun and the desire to kill. Cruz is charged with 17 murders at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Ft. Lauderdale.
Another student said they wanted authorities to take action, not engage in a blame game.
"You know what isn't acceptable?" said Carly Novell, a senior at Douglas. "Blaming everyone but the shooter and the lack of gun control in our country. You even blamed the students. We did report him, we tried. But how were we supposed to know what would happen? Your lack of sympathy proves how pitiful of a person you are."
The students' outrage over Trump's comments came one day after hundreds of gun control advocates rallied at the Broward County federal courthouse with students who survived the attack, parents and community leaders to demand a ban on the sale of assault weapons in the state.
"You're supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us," David Hogg, an 18-year-old Douglas senior, said on NBC's"Meet the Press" program. "How dare you!"
Sarah Lerner, a teacher who survived the shooting, said the president's statement was an affront to the victims and their families.
"This is the REAL NEWS. You came to Florida & didn’t talk to me, my students or my coworkers. You had a photo op & played golf. YOU are a disgrace to MY country."
Emma Gonzalez, a senior, is among a group of student survivors who started a movement against mass shootings,@NeverAgainMSD, referring to Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
"It's time for change," Gonzalez said on Twitter in a call to end gun violence. "Let's make it happen."
On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies with conspiracy to tamper in the 2016 U.S. election.
Mueller's indictment said the Russians adopted false online personas to push divisive messages and staged political rallies while posing as Americans.
U.S. spy agencies concluded more than a year ago that Russia used hacking and propaganda to try to tilt the election in favor of Trump. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that.
In a tweet on Saturday night, Trump criticized the FBI in the case of Cruz, 19.
"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," he added.
The FBI acknowledged on Friday that it failed to investigate a warning that Cruz possessed a gun and the desire to kill.
Trump offered no evidence that there was any connection between the investigation of Russian meddling and the FBI's failure to prevent the Florida shooting.
Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates expressed outrage at Trump's efforts to connect the Florida massacre to the Russia probe.
"Our president uses the tragedy to attack the investigation of a foreign adversary's interference in our democracy. Shameful," Yates wrote on Twitter. Yates, who had been a holdover from the Obama administration, was fired early in the Trump presidency for refusing to defend travel restrictions on several Muslim-majority countries.
Trump, in a Sunday morning tweet, belittled Representative Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee that is investigating Russia's actions, labeling him a leaking "monster."
In one of 13 tweets Trump sent after Mueller's indictments of the Russians, the president said he "never said Russia did not meddle in the election."
Trump has on several occasions, however, questioned whether Russia was behind efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Several lawmakers rejected Trump's linking of the FBI's missteps in preventing the shooting to the Russia probe.
"So many folks in the FBI are doing all that they can to keep us safe. The reality of it is, is that they are two separate issues," Republican Senator Tim Scott said on CBS'"Face the Nation" program.
After Mueller's indictment was made public on Friday, Trump said it backed up his assertion that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
The indictment did not address whether anyone from the Trump campaign coordinated or worked with Russians. Mueller's broader probe is ongoing.
"It wasn't designed to be able to clear everything on the investigation," Republican Senator James Lankford said on NBC's"Meet the Press."
"It was designed to say it was very clear these 13 individuals in this set of companies were trying to interfere in our election," said Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Schiff, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" program, said details of the Mueller indictment provided "overwhelming and unequivocal" evidence of the threat from Russian interference. He said the indictments countered Trump's frequent comments that the Russia investigation was a "hoax."
"This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes," Schiff said.© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.