Obama publicly lambasts Trump for first time since election
Former president called for restoration of ‘honesty, decency and lawfulness in government’
Noting the “crazy stuff that is coming out of this White House”, he called for “a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government”.
In a speech at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Mr Obama said that Mr Trump had capitalised on the “fear and anger” that politicians had been fanning for years. But he said that Mr Trump was a “symptom, not the cause” of this politics of fear.
“These are extraordinary times,” he said at the student awards ceremony, “these are dangerous times”.
But he added: “In two months we have the chance . . . to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics.”
Mr Obama has kept a relatively low-profile since leaving office in January last year and has refrained from criticising his successor directly. But the former president has a series of engagements in coming weeks as he steps up his political engagement ahead of November’s mid-term elections.
In a fiery speech in Illinois, Mr Obama hit out not just at Mr Trump, but at the Republican Party.
“What happened to the Republican Party? It’s central organising principle in foreign policy is the fight against communism, and now they’re cosying up to the former head of the KGB.”
He criticised Republicans who “should know better” for not providing checks and balances in the system. The politics of resentment had “found a home” in the GOP, he said.
Though not referencing this week’s anonymous opinion piece in the New York Times, Mr Obama said that “the claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders” is not a check on power.
“That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not accountable,” he said, adding: “This is not normal.”
Republican senator Lindsey Graham hit out at the former president on Twitter.
“The more President Barack Obama speaks about the ‘good ole years’ of his presidency, the more likely President Donald Trump is to get re-elected,” he said. “The Obama years were dominated by higher taxes, slower growth, big government, a broken military, and a pathetically weak foreign policy.”
Mr Obama delivered his speech as Mr Trump prepared to take the stage at a rally in North Dakota.
Mr Trump continued to fulminate at this week’s anonymous opinion piece in the New York Times which alleged that there is a “quiet resistance” working within the White House with the aim of frustrating the president’s agenda.
Speaking to reporters on his way to North Dakota, Mr Trump said he would consider directing attorney general Jeff Sessions to investigate the identity of the author. “I think so,” he said in response to a question. “Because I think it’s national security – I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security.”
The president said it was a “disgrace” for the newspaper to have published the piece. “For somebody to do this is very low, and I think, journalistically and from many different standpoints, and maybe even from the standpoint of national security.”
Since the publication of the article, more than 20 top Trump administration officials have denied that they authored the piece.
The president also hit out at the forthcoming book by Bob Woodward, dismissing the writer as a “total fraud” and again suggesting that libel laws should be “toughened up”.
“I’m highly educated and always did well, always did well, no matter what I did,” he continued. “Whether I was in showbusiness – I was in showbusiness, I had the Apprentice, one of the top shows on television – no matter what I did, before that I was a businessman, I was great at business. Then I tried politics and I started off as president. Guess what happened? I won.”