US President Donald Trump on Monday demanded an apology over the Russia investigation rocking his presidency, as he kept up a days-long attack on Barack Obama for his handling of intelligence about election meddling by Moscow.
Trump's young administration has been consumed by allegations -- under investigation both by Congress and the FBI, and furiously denied by the Republican president -- that members of his campaign team colluded with a Russian effort to tip the electoral scales in his favor.
The Washington Post's recent publication of a behind-the-scenes account of Obama's reportedly hesitant response to the Russian threat has triggered a stream of angry tweets and televised attacks from Trump on his predecessor.
Doubling down in a Twitter storm Monday morning, he charged that Obama had "colluded and obstructed" by failing to act after the CIA informed him President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an operation to help defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton last November.
"The real story is that President Obama did NOTHING after being informed in August about Russian meddling," Trump fumed, accusing Obama of holding back because "he expected Clinton would win, and did not want to 'rock the boat.'"
"He didn't 'choke,' he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good," the president tweeted, alluding to the Post's description of Obama's response.
"With 4 months looking at Russia under a magnifying glass, they have zero 'tapes' of T [Trump] people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology!" the president charged.
The account published Friday by the Post reported that the previous administration issued four warnings to Moscow -- including one Obama delivered directly to Putin -- causing Moscow to pull back on possible plans to sabotage US voting operations.
But it said Obama opted to leave countermeasures for later, for fear of being seen as interfering in an election he was confident Clinton would win.
After Trump's shock victory in November, some Obama administration officials expressed regret at the lack of tougher action.
"Wow, did we mishandle this," a former administration official told the newspaper.
- 'Transparent' distraction -
Some Democrats saw abundant irony in Trump blaming Obama for indecisiveness against a Russian operation he himself has long seemed to play down -- including when he fired FBI chief James Comey in May over his handling of allegations of meddling, and possible collusion with Trump's campaign.
But others have joined in the criticism, including Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who said at the weekend that Obama's administration had made a "serious mistake."
A former Obama White House official on Monday dismissed Trump's attacks on the ex-president as "a transparent effort to distract" from the impact of the administration's embattled efforts to repeal and replace Obama's health care reforms.
"This situation was taken extremely seriously, as is evident by president Obama raising this issue directly with president Putin," the official said.
As further evidence of the Obama administration's determination to address the Russian threat, the official cited "17 intelligence agencies issuing an extraordinary public statement... the president directing a comprehensive intelligence review, and ultimately issuing a robust response including shutting down two Russian compounds, sanctioning nine Russian entities and individuals, and ejecting 35 Russian diplomats from the country."
Criticism of Trump's own failure to sharply condemn Russian interference has continued to vex his administration.
As recently as last Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer could not give a clear answer when asked repeatedly whether Trump believes the Russians interfered in the 2016 elections.
"I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing," Spicer said. "Obviously we've been dealing with a lot of other issues."