Trump: FBI ‘spending too much time’ on Russia inquiry and missed Florida shooter signs

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The president’s attempt to use the shooting to make a political point about the Russia inquiries drew swift criticism

Mark Oliver and Oliver Laughland in New York and agencies

Donald Trump has criticized the FBI for missing the “many signals” about the Florida school shooter, saying the agency was spending “too much time” trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

The US president’s attempt to use the shooting to make a political point about the FBI’s Russia inquiries into the Trump campaign drew swift criticism, including from John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, who told CNN it was an “absurd statement”.

Trump, who the National Rifle Association (NRA) helped elect, made the comments in a weekend twitter storm as he faced demands for action on gun control, including from the teenage survivors of America’s latest school massacre.

Thousands of protesters at state rallies this weekend demanded an immediate response from lawmakers in the wake of Wednesday’s attack that left 17 victims dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.

A White House schedule says that Trump will hold a listening session with school students on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported Sunday, though there were few details.

On Saturday at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, teenage survivors criticized politicians for taking donations from the NRA. “Shame on you”, said one student, Emma Gonzalez.

Trump, who the NRA spent spent more than $30m helping elect, has said little on gun control following the attack beyond a tweet late Saturday asking why Democrats didn’t pass legislation in the Obama administration, and has instead focussed on the mental health of the suspect, Nikolas Cruz.

On Twitter, Trump referenced the FBI’s admission on Friday that it failed to investigate a specific report in January that Cruz could be plotting a school shooting.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is no acceptable,” tweeted Trump. He accused the FBI of “spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the 2016 Trump campaign”.

On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller announced an indictment of 13 Russians for trying to meddle in the US election.

The FBI has said the tip about Cruz should have been investigated thoroughly because it was a “potential threat to life”.

Cruz was arrested on Wednesday and has since been charged with murdering 17 people at a high school this week.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday morning, Kasich, who was a 2016 presidential candidate, branded Trump’s tweet “an absurd statement”. “The fact of the matter is the FBI apparently made a terrible mistake and people should be held accountable. But we need leadership out of the executive. This is a great opportunity for common sense steps that can be taken, just in the area of background checks,” he said.

He added: “There should be no ability to do a casual sale without anyone having to find out who they’re selling the gun to and what is involved. The president should be for that.”

 

James Clapper, former director of national intelligence under the Obama administration, told CNN Trump’s FBI remarks were “at best… disingenuous”.

Clapper said the FBI’s failure to investigate a tipoff about the Parkland shooter highlighted “the tremendous pressure that’s put on other things while we ignore the big problem of guns, particularly assault rifles”.

On 5 January, a tipster who was close to Cruz called the FBI and provided information about Cruz’s guns, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts. The FBI says the caller expressed concerns Cruz could attack a school. Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, issued a curt statement after the FBI admission saying that warnings signs had been missed with “tragic consequences”. He said: “We must do better.”

More demonstrations planned

More demonstrations calling for gun control are planned across the country in the weeks ahead.

Plans for the protests circulated widely on social media on Saturday, as students, parents, teachers and neighbors gathered to express their grief over the fatal shooting of 14 students and three staff members at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida.

Organizers behind the Women’s March, an anti-Trump and female empowerment protest, called for a 17-minute nationwide walkout by teachers and students on 14 March.

The Network for Public Education, an advocacy organization for public schools, announced a day of walkouts, sit-ins and other events on school campuses on 20 April, the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine high school in Colorado that left 12 students and one teacher dead.

 

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