Former Vice President Joe Biden blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for refusing to sign a bipartisan statement condemning Russia’s interference in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections.
Biden, speaking at an event hosted by the Council of Foreign Relations on Tuesday, said he and former President Barack Obama worried that speaking out about the meddling before Nov. 9, 2016, would inevitably look like a politically motivated effort to tip the elections, Politico reported.
They approached McConnell with the idea of issuing a bipartisan statement, but the senator “wanted no part” in it, according to Biden, who has repeatedly floated the possibility of a 2020 presidential bid.
A spokesperson for McConnell defended the senate majority leader and pointed to a letter he signed in September 2016 along with the three other congressional leaders, Politico reported.
Joe Biden: “It’s easy now to say, well, maybe we should have said more…but could you imagine” if Pres. Obama called October press conference with Trump team “and said, ‘the Russians are trying to interfere in our elections’…what do you think would have happened?” pic.twitter.com/kU0pUKPYdH
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 23, 2018
But the letter to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors simply urged states to bolster their voting systems from cyberattacks, and did not include any mentions of Russia.
Evidence of Russia’s role in the Democratic National Committee hack began mounting in the summer of 2016, and senators who received intelligence briefings urged Obama to declassify reports surrounding the stolen emails.
One month before the elections, intelligence officials under the Obama administration issued a statement blaming the Russian government for undermining the U.S. electoral system.
But it wasn’t until after President Trump’s victory that a CIA report revealed Russia was acting in the interests of the Republican candidate.
Obama came under fire for not acting sooner, and Biden called it a “constant tightrope” on Tuesday.