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The Issue at Hand
American intelligence has assessed that Russia offered militants bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
Initial intelligence was shared with the White House and included in one of Trump’s daily briefings in early 2019, then again in February of 2020. In spite of that, Trump has maintained a warm relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin throughout his presidency.
The White House initially said Trump wasn’t briefed on the intelligence. But on Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was indeed briefed, though there were reservations about the veracity of the allegations.
Why Trump's Claim to Not Know Exposes Him
Trump has made the claim that he did not know about Russia offering bounties for the deaths of American soldiers. But multiple sources contradict that claim, so that leads to multiple thoughts:
1. Did Trump get briefed and just did not remember it?
One of the ways Trump is trying to attack his 2020 rival Joe Biden with is his failing mental state. But with confirmation that Trump was briefed makes you wonder if Trump is starting to have memory issues.
It wouldn't be the first time that Trump has contradicted himself.
2. Was the material in Trump's briefing packet and he just didn't read it?
This one is the most likely scenario as it has been rumored that Trump just doesn't read his President's Daily Briefs (PDB). It has been widely reported that Trump prefers to get his information orally or graphically, and there is a member of the CIA who chooses what to include in his oral briefings.
Intelligence services have confirmed to multiple outlets that the information did indeed make it into his PDB.
3. Did Trump's handlers feel that they could not trust Trump with actionable intelligence pertaining to Russia and fail to orally brief him?
Trump and Russia are difficult subjects. To say that he gets a bit defensive about Russia would be an understatement. His handlers might have wanted to avoid bringing him an issue pertaining to Russia because of how upset he gets.
Add to that, the instance when Trump exposed sensitive intelligence to the Russian Ambassador in the Oval Office pertaining to an Israeli spy, and our intelligence services might have been overly concerned about sharing this information with Trump.
4. Did Trump get orally briefed and dismissed the need to take any action?
Reports coming out say that there were options put on the table for Trump back in March of this year on how to respond to Russia about the issue. Three months later, Trump has done nothing to answer the bounties placed on American soldiers.
Trump Lies, And There Are Multiple Reports That He Was Briefed Twice
As reports have started to come out that he did know about the bounties, and did not take action to defend the soldiers, what does that mean for national security?
1. Trump has been rumored to be a victim of Kompromat
It has long been rumored that Trump has been filmed in compromising positions while visiting Russia for one of his pageants. There are also multiple articles written that Trump has ties to Russian mafia and money laundering operations. Just prior to the 2016 election, and according to reporting from the Independent, there was one such mafia member living just two floors down from Trump's own penthouse suite in his New York Tower.
2. Trump values his business interests over America
While past Presidents have disengaged from their business interests, Trump has seemingly intermingled the two. From vacationing at his own properties and charging the Secret Service lavish fees for housing and protection, to his Washington, DC hotel being the host site for many foreign representatives, Trump is profiting from his position in multiple ways.
With reports that right up until the election, Trump was in negotiations to open a Trump Tower in Russia, there is a pre-existing business relationship with Putin pertaining to his businesses.
Combine all that with the current Deutsche Bank investigation as reported by the New York Times that likely would reveal his money laundering activities, and he has many reasons to protect his Russian friends.
3. Trump values the opinion of Putin over US Intelligence Services
In July of 2018, Trump went to Helsinki to meet with Putin. He emerged to make this statement about Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election as reported by CNN:
"I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today," Trump said during a joint news conference after he spent about two hours in a room alone with Putin, save for a pair of interpreters.
Congress and every US Intelligence Service has concluded that Russia was indeed behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee, the release of e-mails damaging to Hillary Clinton, and ran a social media campaign targeting certain voters in the United States to assist Trump in his campaign.
4. Trump just doesn't care about the soldiers
After attacks on a Gold Star family and Senator John McCain, Trump broke certain norms pertaining to the military. His recent relief of a Naval Commander who was trying to protect his crew during the Covid-19 pandemic was met with controversy. And when Trump abruptly pulled troops from Syria and abandoned Kurdish allies to be slaughtered by the Turkish military, that was met with shock.
In recent days, numerous military commanders have lined up to criticize Trump's policies both at home and abroad according to reporting by Foreignpolicy.com
5. Trump knows he needs Russia to assist him in re-election
Trump is sagging in the polls after disastrous handling of both the Covid-19 virus and the racial unrest that saw him violently remove protesters so he could have a photo op in response to criticism that he hid in the White House bunker during demonstrations.
In 2016, he barely squeaked by in three swing states and it was detailed in the Mueller Report that his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had shared internal polling data with the Kremlin that helped them target certain areas necessary for Trump.
Jane Mayer, in a detailed article for The New Yorker, details many ways that that influence helped swing the election for Trump. He knows he will need a repeat of that foreign interference and has already been impeached for trying to have Ukraine announce fake investigations into his 2020 rival, as well as caving to China on the trade front to try and score a win to boost his election chances as reporting in John Bolton's recently released book.
What This Further Exposes
More than half the country recognizes that Trump lies about things great and small. His base seems to be oblivious to his falsehoods and that is reflected in polling done by Pew Research that finds a high satisfaction (81.2%) with his response to Covid-19 among Republican voters while it's just 10.4% among Democrats and 35.7% among Independents.
His base will buy whatever he sells them, while many are aware that after nearly 20,000 lies or misleading statements, he has no credibility left.
2. GOP Hypocrisy
For a party that seemed really, really concerned when four Americans were killed in the Benghazi raids, there seems to be little concern among the GOP when so many soldiers were killed in Afghanistan after having bounties placed upon them. I guess when the shoe is on the other foot, downplaying such a scandal is appropriate. Sort of like how many in the GOP have been voting by mail for the past few elections, but that they don't think it valid for the common voter.
After Trump has failed to handle Covid-19, has attacked Americans during racial unrest while his campaign has used Nazi symbols and he posts videos with supporters shouting 'white power,' this failure to respond to Russian terrorism against our troops is just one more reason why electing a television reality show host with no government experience was a complete train wreck that will be rectified in 2020, much the same way that Congressional kowtowing to Trump from 2016-2018 was amended in the 2018 midterms. Good riddance and best of luck with all the Southern District of New York investigations into your crimes.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.