By Robert A. Vella
After last week’s revelations about Russia paying bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, amid the coronavirus pandemic raging out of control in America, President Trump and Republican hopes for the 2020 election – which were already fading – have been further damaged according to new public opinion polls. This morning, FiveThirtyEight has Trump’s aggregate disapproval/approval rating nearly 16 points underwater at 56.4% to 40.5% and its generic congressional ballot favoring Democrats by 9 full points at 49.0% to 40.0%. Both are record lows for this election cycle.
Perhaps even more revealing is a vote by Oklahomans yesterday to approve Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) in that deeply red state which Trump won by a whopping 36+% in 2016 over Hillary Clinton and which he carried every single county. This stunning primary election result stands in stark contrast to Trump’s continuing attempts to repeal the ACA via the U.S. Supreme Court in addition to partisan GOP opposition to Obamacare since the 2008 presidential election campaign; and, it vividly illustrates the widespread unpopularity of Republican polices among the American electorate.
The latest Russian bounty revelation published last night refutes one of many disjointed denials from the White House because it evidentially contradicts their assertion that U.S. intelligence reports were not credible and that it did not warrant informing the president. Regardless of Trump’s disinterest in reading the President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs), or the reluctance of his top officials to risk angering him about information he wants to ignore, the fact remains that he still hasn’t taken any action against Russia; and, it only reinforces existing suspicions that Trump is prioritizing his relationship with Vladimir Putin over the national security interests of the United States. Although congressional Republicans are hesitating to challenge Trump on this issue, the pressure on them to do so is increasing from within their own constituencies (see: Mitch McConnell Flouts Trump, Again Says Russia Should Not Be Allowed in G7).
Regarding COVID-19, Republican officials across the country are breaking with the Trump administration‘s counterproductive and idiotic messaging campaign which is trying to turn sound public health policies into a divisive culture war. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was derided early this year as “Moscow Mitch” for ramming through a sham impeachment trial, has joined in (see: Sen. McConnell Says Americans Must Have ‘No Stigma’ In Wearing Face Masks).
In the 2000 adventure/psychological-study film Cast Away, FedEx systems analyst Chuck Noland (played by Academy Award nominated actor Tom Hanks) is stranded on a small uninhabited South Pacific island where he struggles to survive for over four years. He deals with his social isolation by cherishing a picture of his wife and befriending a blood-stained volleyball as his imaginary companion “Wilson.” The increasing political isolation bearing down on Donald Trump must be having a similar effect. We can expect his mental health to deteriorate further.
Large financial transfers intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies led to raised suspicions about Russian bounties, according to The New York Times.
The Times reported on Friday that President Trump was provided with written briefs on intelligence that Russia offered bounties to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, the newspaper reported that U.S. analysts concluded that large financial transfers intercepted by the U.S. were likely bounties from the GRU, Moscow’s military intelligence agency, to the Taliban.
The analysts found that several Afghan businessmen who transferred money through the informal “hawala” system over the past six months served as middlemen for these transactions. The transfers reportedly quelled disagreements among intelligence officials on whether the initial intelligence about Russian bounties was credible.
White House officials claimed Trump was not briefed on the intelligence because it was too uncertain.
The White House did not mention this to GOP lawmakers on Monday when they were briefed on the intelligence, the Times reported.
Afghan security forces, with assistance from the U.S., raided several houses in the northern city of Kunduz in March in an effort to capture two Afghans involved in the bounty effort, the official said. The pair had already fled the country [to Russia], but more than a dozen others were arrested, added the official, who agreed to discuss the intelligence in return for anonymity.
Trump was reportedly briefed on possible Russian bounties on US troops on February 27 — the same day he had a 45-minute meeting with producers behind a dramatized play about ex-FBI members Peter Strzok and Lisa Page
In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America’s principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.
The calls caused former top Trump deputies — including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials — to conclude that the President was often “delusional,” as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. The sources said there was little evidence that the President became more skillful or competent in his telephone conversations with most heads of state over time. Rather, he continued to believe that he could either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will, and often pursued goals more attuned to his own agenda than what many of his senior advisers considered the national interest.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — They didn’t like it when then-candidate Donald Trump criticized John McCain for being captured in combat. They were angrier when Trump, as commander in chief, abandoned Kurdish allies in the Middle East. And they were upset again last month when he threatened to deploy troops against American protesters.
Trump’s relationship with the nation’s military community has been frequently strained. But just four months before the November election, reports that he either ignored, or was unaware of, a Russian plot to kill U.S. troops could intensify the tension and create new political risks.
“I don’t think he cares about troops at all,” said Shawn LeMond, a Navy veteran who served his country in the Middle East and then his state of North Carolina as a Republican legislator. “If he didn’t know about Russia, it’s because he didn’t do his damn homework. And that’s despicable.”
After sitting out the 2016 election, LeMond has withdrawn from the Republican Party and plans to vote for Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, this fall.
It’s difficult to gauge how widespread LeMond’s sentiment is among veterans, but there was a significant outcry this week from a collection of retired service members, elected officials in both parties and families of fallen soldiers who have lost confidence in the president’s commitment to the troops. That’s just four weeks after Trump’s former defense secretary James Mattis, a Marine general, described the president as a threat to the Constitution.
Most Presidents would try to stop the United States from barreling toward disaster. But Donald Trump has nothing to say and no answers to mitigate a calamity unfolding on his watch that he seems resolved to ignore.
On the day when the government’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci said he would not be surprised to see the US record 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day, Trump refused to break his deafening silence.
And the day after his White House described record-breaking new infections that are sweeping the nation as “embers that need to be put out,” Trump’s campaign claimed credit for the “phenomenal” success of his botched pandemic leadership.
Trump is now pretty much the sole figure in authority in either party — including his major Republican allies — who refuse to wear or endorse face masks that are proven to slow the spread of coronavirus but that he has stigmatized as a liberal plot to harm him politically.
Voters in six key 2020 election states have little good to say about how President Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus as the pandemic tears through the United States, according to a new CNBC/Change Research poll.
As cases spike in pockets of the U.S. South and West after states reopened their economies, likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin believe Trump shoulders much of the blame, the survey released Wednesday found.
When asked to select two people or groups most responsible for the recent increase in hospitalizations, 35% said the president — the largest share among the answers. Trump was followed by “people not wearing masks” at 34%, “states reopening their economies too soon” at 32% and “people not social distancing” at 29%.
Along with a wave of other recent surveys, it shows Trump has significant ground to make up before November if he wants to win a second White House term. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads the incumbent by a 50% to 44% margin across the swing states, wider than the 48% to 45% edge he held in a poll taken two weeks earlier.