President Donald Trump said he believes that predecessor Barack Obama is riling up protesters against his administration and that Obama’s “people” may be the source of unflattering national-security leaks to the media. “I think he is behind it. I also think it is politics, that’s the way it is,” Trump said of the protests during an interview with the hosts of “Fox and Friends” conducted Monday at the White House and aired Tuesday.
“I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it,” Trump continued. “And some of the leaks possibly come from that group,” which are “really very serious leaks because they are very bad in terms of national security.”
Trump didn’t offer any evidence of Obama’s direct involvement. Obama’s Organizing for Action, the nonprofit group that was formed after his 2012 campaign, is one of the many organizations supporting protesters who are challenging the new president and congressional Republicans. The organization paused its activities during the 2016 race. “It will probably continue,” Trump said of Obama being “behind things.”
Asked about Trump’s comments, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the former president’s policies are behind the protests. “I believe Obamacare is responsible for it,” he told NBC’s “Today.” Pressed on the role of Obama himself, Ryan said he had “no knowledge of such a thing, I have no clue. There is the white noise that I’m talking about.”
When it comes to rooting out leaks, Trump said he would have taken a different approach than his White House press secretary, who, according to Politico, held a meeting in which staff members were asked to provide their phones to be checked for evidence of leaking.
“Sean Spicer is a fine human being, he’s a fine person. I would have done it differently. I would have gone one-on-one with different people,” Trump said. “But Sean handles it his way and I’m OK with it.”
CNN reported earlier that Trump signed off on Spicer’s phone check, citing unnamed sources. Spicer denied that Trump was involved in the decision.
Trump suggested again that it’s likely his political opponents who are leaking information. “We have sort of ideas” about who’s been leaking, but “don’t forget: we have people from other campaigns, we have people from other governments, we’ve got a lot of people here.”
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Trump was asked to grade himself on his first month in office and was uncharacteristically critical of himself of one front. “In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C-plus,” he said, citing his prioritization of dangerous undocumented immigrants for deportation as one example of something his administration hasn’t communicated well.
“In terms of achievement, I think I’d give myself an A. Because I think I’ve done great things,” he said. But “I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public.”
The task falls to both him and his staff, he said in the same interview where he took a jab at Spicer’s approach to the leak probe. “I think I’ve done great things but I don’t think, I and my people, I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public.”
Trump was the recipient of rare public criticism of a sitting president by a predecessor this week — from Republican George W. Bush.
In his first interview since Trump took office, Bush told NBC News “we all need answers” about any connection between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Asked about Trump’s characterizing some of the news media as “the enemy of the people,” Bush said, “I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy.”
According to People magazine, to which Bush also spoke as he promotes his new book benefiting veterans, he said of the direction of the country under Trump, “I don’t like the racism and I don’t like the name-calling and I don’t like the people feeling alienated.”