Trump White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney Admits Russia Interfered in 2016 Election, Quickly Blames Obama Administration

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged Sunday that Russia did try to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, but said blame for this foreign meddling should be placed with the Obama administration.

Mulvaney told Meet the Press' Chuck Todd Sunday "it didn't make a difference" if Russia did or did not interfere in the 2016 election.

But the NBC News host quickly pushed back and demanded someone in the Trump administration admit there was Russian influence, as detailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, that aided Trump and hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Mueller's report and FBI Director Christopher Wray have recently warned of escalating Russian interference efforts, but last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a bipartisan election security bill.

"Does the president accept the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to help him win?" Todd asked Mulvaney Sunday morning.

"I think the bottom line, and this got lost again this week, is it didn't make any difference. You'd ask a lot of people to 'show me who you voted for and I'll tell you how I feel'..." Mulvaney said, citing the 2016 election in which Clinton won the popular vote, before Todd cut him off.

"That's not the question, you guys always try to change it to 'But no votes were changed.' That's not the point," Todd shot back. "Does he accept the fact that Russia interfered to benefit him? Which is what Robert Mueller found."

"Fine," Mulvaney conceded. "What happened? The short answer to the question is 'yes.' Russia did attempt to interfere in our election there is no question."

But Mulvaney quickly reassigned blame to one of the president's most frequently picked-on former politicians: former President Barack Obama. Mulvaney has repeatedly appeared on cable news networks reiterating "no collusion" was found in the Mueller report and in March told CNN that Trump's ethics and morality were not under investigation.

"Let's not lose sight of the fact that it was the previous administration that let that happen," Mulvaney added.

Todd pressed Mulvaney, asking if the Trump administration is taking legitimate, tangible steps to "condemn" similar efforts in 2020 and "criminalize foreign interference." In April, South Carolina Republican senator and frequent Trump defender Lindsey Graham said he frequently informs the president that Russians hacked into the DNC and Clinton's emails in 2016 and are likely to interfere again in 2020.

mick mulvaney
White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged Russia did try to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, but he said blame should be placed with the Obama administration for allowing it to happen. Screenshot: NBC News | Meet the Press

Mulvaney continued, detailing the steps he says the Trump administration is taking across the U.S. to stop 2020 interference in any way. But Mulvaney echoed Trump's repeated claims to focus less on the findings of the Mueller investigation and more on who he asserts — with no substantive support — was behind the "hoax" investigation: Obama and his Democratic Party allies in the federal government.

"Been doing it for two years, already been working with the states to make sure this stuff can't happen," Mulvaney replied. "Again, stuff that doesn't percolate up to the level of national attention. But out Department of Justice, our DHS have been working with states and local governments to make sure that no foreign government — Russia or anybody — has the ability to do in 2020 what they did in 2016."

"I just wish some of the people would, you know, try to lay some of the blame where it belongs with the previous administration for letting it happen in the first place," Mulvaney said.