President Trump is finding himself the object of much scorn and criticism over reports that he had known about reports of an alleged connection between Russia and the Taliban over a bounty to kill American soldiers.
The president stated late on Sunday evening that he had just been briefed by intelligence officials about the reports of the plot and that the “intel” he received stated that they did not believe the report was “credible.”
Not a good look for the administration.
Here’s more on this from The Washington Examiner:
“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” Trump tweeted, adding that it was “possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News [New York Times] wanting to make Republicans look bad.”
The New York Times reported Friday that a U.S. intelligence assessment concluded that a Russian spy unit paid Taliban-connected militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. and coalition troops even as the Trump administration sought to reach a peace deal involving the Taliban and the Afghan government. The New York Times further reported that Trump was briefed about the bounties during an interagency meeting late in March and that officials developed a list of options to respond, but the outlet’s sources said the administration had yet to authorize any of the actions.
Prior to Trump’s tweet, a senior Trump administration official had told the Washington Examiner on Sunday evening that Trump had not been briefed on the issue because there was a lack of consensus within the intelligence community about the accuracy of the intelligence. National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot told the Washington Examiner that “the veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated.”
Earlier in the day on Sunday, Trump stated that “nobody briefed or told” him or Vice President Mike Pence about the alleged attacks on troops in Afghanistan. He went on to say that no one has been “tougher on Russia than the Trump administration.”
Speaker Pelosi isn’t buying the president’s denial of being briefed on the situation. She went on to express a conspiracy theory that Russia has some sort of dirt on the president they are holding over his head to force him to “ignore” intelligence briefings related to Russias comings and goings.
“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score — denies being briefed,” Pelosi said on during an interview on This Week. “Whether he is or not, his administration knows, and our allies, some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan, have been briefed and accept this report. Just as I have said to the president: With him, all roads lead to Putin.”
Trump’s newest enemy, former national security adviser John Bolton spoke with Chuck Todd and disagreed with Speaker Pelosi’s assessment.
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s evidence for that, and I think it’s a mistake on the one hand to say the Russia collusion theory was true, which some opponents of Trump still can’t let go of.”
No matter how you slice the pickle, this doesn’t look good for Trump. Whether or not he knew or not, it’s going to hurt his appeal even with some in his own base. Hopefully, the damage is minimal. We’ll have to wait and see.