Preoccupation with tweets and online posts, inadequate handling of a serious national health threat, and divisive stance in addressing racial issues mark Trump’s administration. Now, another grave issue is on the rise - reports on Russian bounties targeting U.S. forces.
New York Times' explosive report on the president's receipt of a written intelligence brief in February regarding a Russian reward money to kill American and coalition soldiers, also gave some details on the investigation of alleged Russian secret operation. Denials, downplay, explanations, and refusals to comment on some points were the administration’s response to the story. In a tweet, Trump explained that Intel didn't find the story believable so it was not reported to him. Dismissing it as fabricated to make Republicans look bad, he took no action.
True or fake news? This U.S. intelligence assessment initially reported by Times regarding information on Russia's bounties for American and British fighters in Afghanistan was confirmed by a Western defense official to POLITICO. As the president continues to deny that he was briefed on the matter, lawmakers are now pressing for a classified briefing to get to the bottom of the story. In New York Times’ report on Tuesday, suspicions of Russian bounties were reinforced when data showing financial bank transactions between an account controlled by Russia's military
intelligence agency and a Taliban-linked bank account were intercepted. In a Fox Business Network interview on Wednesday,Trump again dismissed the “Russian bounty” report as a “hoax” since some of his intelligence people doubt its accuracy. Hours earlier, his national security adviser O’Brien said the Pentagon and the CIA are looking into the matter and taking steps to protect American forces. The administration's conflicting reaction to the story reveals its vulnerability to the Kremlin's provocation, regardless if it is true or not.
The president's reluctance to confront Russia on the matter increased lingering fears among U.S. lawmakers and allies that Trump prefers to remain ignorant when it comes to alleged Russian plotting against the U.S. Greatly differing from his handling of the Russian issue, the absence of clarity has not deterred Trump from placing new sanctions on China and Iran who both pose very different challenges to American power. Former intelligence people cited that the divisions in Washington will encourage Moscow, and failure to respond appropriately will put U.S. troops at risk, allowing Putin's efforts to undermine America to continue more intensely.
In 2018, The Washington Post covered Trump's extensive history of attacking our military and dismantling democratic norms.