By Robert A. Vella
Before getting to today’s two main topics, I’d like readers to examine the following comparison of new COVID-19 cases between the U.S. and Canada. The stark difference in the severity of the coronavirus pandemic is quite revealing. It clearly demonstrates the imperative of political leadership and good governance. Canada has it. The U.S. obviously does not.
But, America’s problem is far worse than just having poor leadership and governance. As more revelations emerge about Russia paying bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, President Trump is desperately trying to obscure his traitorous acts and cover-up for his partner-in-crime Vladimir Putin.
Let me be perfectly clear. Donald Trump is a traitor to his own country. He is a willing accomplice in this covert operation just as he has been in numerous others since colluding with Russia to get fraudulently elected in 2016. He has supported Putin’s plan to undermine the United States domestically and internationally at every opportunity (watch the 2017 FRONTLINE documentary Putin’s Revenge). Regardless of whether Trump is somehow beholden to Putin (like a gambler is indebted to his bookie), or is ideologically aligned with him (they are both oligarchical authoritarians opposed to democracy and pluralism), their goals are essentially the same… at least concerning America.
As we shall see in these news reports, Trump is blatantly lying (what a surprise!) about not knowing about the Russian bounties. He most certainly was informed since early last year (by former National Security Advisor John Bolton); but, more importantly, it is his responsibility as president to be aware of threats against the nation. Absurd excuses including his reported refusal to read daily intelligence briefs, or reported reluctance by White House officials to inform him of information which he doesn’t want to hear, are tantamount to a dereliction of duty and it exposes Trump’s unfitness for office. Even more disturbing is new speculation that the U.S. intelligence community is deliberately withholding certain sensitive information from the president because they fear he’ll pass it along to Putin.
And, speaking of intelligence officials, Trump allowed them to brief congressional Republicans yesterday but prevented them from briefing congressional Democrats in today’s meeting. What does that tell you, folks?
American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.
The new information emerged as the White House tried on Monday to play down the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to encourage and reward killings — including reiterating a claim that Mr. Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.
But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.
Moreover, a description of the intelligence assessment that the Russian unit had carried out the bounties plot was also seen as serious and solid enough to disseminate more broadly across the intelligence community in a May 4 article in the C.I.A.’s World Intelligence Review, a classified compendium commonly referred to as The Wire, two officials said.
Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues at the time that he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
The White House didn’t respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump wasn’t — and still hasn’t been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they haven’t been fully verified. However, it’s rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.
Bolton declined to comment Monday when asked by the AP if he’d briefed Trump about the matter in 2019. On Sunday, he suggested to NBC that Trump was claiming ignorance of Russia’s provocations to justify his administration’s lack of response.
Senior House Democrats left a White House briefing on Russian bounties disappointed on Tuesday, saying they were given “no substantive information” about allegations that the Kremlin paid Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops — and that President Donald Trump sat on the information for months.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who led a group of nearly a dozen Democrats to the White House early Tuesday, said Congress still needs to hear from the heads of various Intelligence agencies — not White House officials — on the stunning allegations. The Trump administration officials tasked with briefing the Democrats, Hoyer said, expressed their opinion of the allegations but didn’t share the underlying evidence.
The briefing kicked off another day of rising fury among Democrats, who were shut out of a Monday White House briefing that included only a handful of Republican lawmakers while the White House and Trump offered conflicting versions of events. The bounty allegations, first reported Friday by The New York Times, have raised alarm in both parties about a grave threat to American troops — and demands for a U.S. response if the allegations bear out.
International news roundup: