Trump’s Explanation For Ignoring Russia Intel Is Looking Worse and Worse

Trump’s Explanation For Ignoring Russia Intel Is Looking Worse and Worse

The White House has apparently known of possible Russian bounties on Americans in Afghanistan since early 2019, pushing the timeline back a full year earlier than when the administration was initially thought to have learned of the intelligence. The shocking findings that a Russian military intelligence agency offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for attacks on

The White House has apparently known of possible Russian bounties on Americans in Afghanistan since early 2019, pushing the timeline back a full year earlier than when the administration was initially thought to have learned of the intelligence. The shocking findings that a Russian military intelligence agency offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for attacks on U.S. and coalition forces is something that President Donald Trump was previously reported to have known and done nothing about since late March, despite claiming on Sunday that no one told him about such information.

But the Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Trump was briefed at least twice on the matter in 2019, in his written daily intelligence briefings as well as by then-national security adviser John Bolton, who reportedly told colleagues in March 2019 that he had briefed the president on the intelligence assessment. Bolton declined to comment on this when asked by the outlet on Monday, but did suggest that Trump has a tendency to feign ignorance when trying to skirt accountability. “He can disown everything if nobody told him about it,” Bolton said on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

The AP previously reported that Trump was again made aware of the Russian bounty allegations at least two more times this year, in another written presidential daily briefing as well as in a discussion with national security adviser Robert O’Brien. O’Brien has denied discussing the intelligence with Trump and on Monday said the assessments “have not been verified,” an argument put forth by the White House to explain why the president was not, and has yet to be, briefed on the matter. But it is “rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials,” notes the AP’s James LaPorta. “The administration’s earlier awareness of the Russian efforts raises additional questions about why Trump did not take any punitive action against Moscow for efforts that put the lives of Americans service members at risk.” (Russia has denied the bounty allegations).

The president has yet to authorize a response despite reports of potential options developed by career government officials, raising questions of government inaction and Trump’s kid gloves approach to Russia—and leaving Republicans scrambling to figure out how to address. Lawmakers have called on the administration to present more information and, the Washington Post reported, for Russia to be punished if the intelligence is found to be true. Senators Cory Gardner and Thom Tillis made similar calls for Russia to be treated by the U.S. government as a state sponsor of terrorism. Senator Ben Sasse called on Congress to find out “Who knew what, when, and did the commander in chief know? And if not, how the hell not?” Sasse noted that if the intelligence information is deemed accurate, “[imposing] the proportional cost in response” would, in these circumstances, “mean Taliban and GRU body bags.”

The Post notes that Republicans “took a notably tougher public tone” than Trump did but still largely skirted the question of whether Trump should have known about the report. “While the Trump administration has taken some aggressive measures against Russia, the president’s conciliatory tone toward Russian President Vladmir Putin continues to be a thorny political problem for Republicans who have advocated a more hawkish approach toward the authoritarian leader,” writes the Post’s Seung Min Kim.

Those familiar with Trump’s phone calls with world leaders like Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were so concerned by what they heard that they concluded Trump “posed a danger to the national security of the United States,” CNN reported. According to two sources, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis are among the former top Trump deputies who came to see the president as “delusional” in his interactions with foreign leaders.

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