WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump lashed out at the FBI late Saturday, describing its failure to follow up on a tip about Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz as “very sad.”
The FBI has said it failed to act on information about Cruz, who massacred 17 people Wednesday at his former high school in Parkland.
The shooting reignited demands for tougher gun laws, with student survivors gathering in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday to criticize Trump and other lawmakers for their inaction.
But Trump shifted blame to the FBI, saying it is devoting too much time to investigating his presidential campaign.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter,” the President tweeted a day after he visited hospitalized survivors of the shooting.
“This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
Trump maintains denials
The White House has vehemently denied collusion with Russia.
On Friday, the Justice Department announced that special counsel Robert Mueller has issued indictments on 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election, charging them with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Mueller convened a grand jury as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as any possible connections between Russia and Trump campaign associates.
The sweeping indictment describes an unprecedented campaign by Russia to influence the election, affirming the longstanding conclusions of the US intelligence community.
It is at odds with Trump’s repeated questioning of those conclusions.
Trump has said that despite the charges, the Russian meddling had no effect on the outcome of the election. In a separate tweet late Saturday, he said “the only collusion was between” Russia and Hillary Clinton.
‘Focus on what’s real here’
Asked by CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield about the President’s tweet, Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old child was murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, said she thought Trump was trying to link the FBI’s actions on Russia and the Florida shooting in an effort to distract.
“Just ignore all that,” Hockley said. “You can’t conflate these two things. They have nothing to do with each other. Was the Parkland shooting preventable? Absolutely. Does it have anything to do with Russia? No.”
She advised people to “focus on what’s real here” and not be thrown off of the shooting with the President’s insertion about the Russia investigation.
The FBI has acknowledged receiving two tips that appear to relate to Cruz ahead of the shooting. One was a January 5 call to a tip line from someone close to him — one that the FBI said it failed to act on.
The caller provided information about “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” the bureau said.
The information should have been assessed as a “potential threat to life,” but the proper protocols weren’t followed and the FBI’s Miami office was not notified, the agency said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau is investigating what happened.
“We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy,” Wray said in a statement.
The FBI’s admission prompted Florida Gov. Rick Scott to call on Wray to resign.
In addition to the call, a video blogger said he warned the FBI in September about a possible school shooting threat from a YouTube user with the same name as Cruz.
An FBI agent confirmed a field officer in Jackson, Mississippi, received the tip and interviewed the person who shared it.
But no additional information was found to help identify the person who posted the comment and no connection was made to South Florida, said FBI special agent Robert Lasky, who is in charge of the Miami division.
The FBI’s missteps have raised questions about whether it could have prevented the shooting. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review Friday into how the Justice Department and FBI respond to indications of potential violence.
The Justice Department will review not just how the Cruz tip was missed, but how authorities respond to similar situations, Sessions said.
“We will make this a top priority,” Sessions said in a statement. “It has never been more important to encourage every person in every community to spot the warning signs and alert law enforcement. Do not assume someone else will step up — all of us must be vigilant. Our children’s lives depend on it.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, also called for the House and Senate to conduct investigations into how the FBI reviews public tips in similar instances.