Donald Trump faces new questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin after reports that he was informed in writing in February that Russia was paying rewards for the deaths of US soldiers in Afghanistan.
After a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, Democratic members of Congress insisted that the president must have at least been aware of the accusation against Moscow, but was unable to act.
“Based on what we heard today, it was information that a) the president should have known and b) based on what we were told today, he did,” said Adam Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives armed services committee.
Classified US reports suggested that a Russian military intelligence unit offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for killing US and allied forces in Afghanistan, the New York Times reported last week.
The murder in April 2019 of three U.S. Marines after an explosives-equipped car detonated near their vehicles when they returned to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is seen as a possible result of the program, which the Kremlin has denied.
The damning accusations have revived the familiar questions of the American political scandals: what did the President know and when did he know?
Trump has long faced scrutiny over his warm relationship with Putin, including refusal to accept his own intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow intervened on his behalf in the 2016 presidential election; calls for Russia to join the Group of Seven (7) leading industrial countries; and sending ventilators to Russia to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump and Putin spoke on the phone six times between March 30 and June 1, an unusually high number, apparently without mentioning the Afghanistan issue.
On Monday, the Times reported that the rewards information was included in a daily written report delivered to the president in late February, with an unidentified official who specified Feb. 27, a date when Trump received controversial supporters. of celebrities Diamond and Silk in the White House. .
Separately, the Associated Press said senior White House officials were privy to intelligence in early 2019, and the assessment was included in at least one of Trump’s written daily reports at the time. John Bolton, then a national security adviser, told his colleagues when he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019, the AP added.
Trump said Sunday that he was not informed of the allegations because the information was not “credible.” The White House has claimed that there was no consensus among intelligence agencies. The administration has yet to determine whether Trump received a written report or read it.
At Monday’s briefing at the White House, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked if the information was contained in the president’s daily report, a summary of high-level information and analysis on national security issues. She carefully replied: “He was not personally informed on the matter.”
White House officials briefed Democrats only after sharing information with Republicans on Monday, sparking criticism that the Trump administration was playing politics on what should be a nonpartisan issue.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, told reporters: “In analyzing these allegations, number one, the President of the United States should not invite Russia to the G7 or G8. . We should consider what sanctions are appropriate to further deter Russia’s evil activities. “
Schiff, who prosecuted the impeachment case against Trump for a quid pro quo with Ukraine, added: “There may be a reluctance to inform the president about things he does not want to hear, and that may be truer with respect to Putin and Putin Russia than with Regarding any other issue. Many of us do not understand his affinity for that autocratic ruler who means that our nation is sick. “
Rubén Gallego, a member of the armed services committee, told MSNBC: “It is clear that this president has distorted the flow of information. Due to his love for Putin and Russia, he has made it more difficult, in my opinion, for informants and people who report to the President on what is happening to keep him updated on Russian activity, and that has caused a lot of trouble. . “
Critics claim that while Trump is known for watching cable news rather than reading his reports, it is no excuse. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democratic senator who lost her legs while flying on a combat mission over Iraq, said: “Ignorance is not exculpatory.”
Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state hit by Trump in 2016, tweeted Tuesday: “Either she knew and decided to do nothing, or she didn’t know because she couldn’t be bothered to do her job.”
Trump’s handling of diplomatic relations received another blow Monday when Carl Bernstein, a veteran journalist who reported on the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, posted a devastating story on CNN’s website.
“In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state,” Bernstein wrote, citing as unidentified sources from the White House and intelligence officials, Trump “was not so prepared for the discussion of serious problems, so often overcome in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and so abusive to the leaders of America’s top allies that the calls helped convince some top American officials … that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States. “