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Politics Trump Stirs New Alarm Over Russia by Dismissing Bounty Claims

20:17  30 june  2020
20:17  30 june  2020 Source:   bloomberg.com

'I don't know what the Russians have on the president': Pelosi slams Trump over reported of bounty on US troops

  'I don't know what the Russians have on the president': Pelosi slams Trump over reported of bounty on US troops House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday denounced President Donald Trump's response to news reports that Russia placed a bounty on U.S. troops.On Friday, The New York Times reported Trump and the National Security Council had been briefed on an intelligence report that a clandestine Russian unit had offered rewards to Afghan militants who successfully attacked coalition and U.S. troops. On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to deny knowing about the report and to disparage the Times' reporting.

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump has publicly shrugged off allegations that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan, reigniting concerns that he’s more interested in preserving ties with the Kremlin than defending U.S. interests.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie sitting at a table: U.S. President Donald Trump listens during an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 26, 2020. The board, co-chaired by Ivanka Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, is hosting their sixth meeting and are joined by members of the National Council for the American Worker. © Bloomberg U.S. President Donald Trump listens during an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 26, 2020. The board, co-chaired by Ivanka Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, is hosting their sixth meeting and are joined by members of the National Council for the American Worker.

Trump has yet to demand an investigation or threaten Russia with any consequences if the allegations are confirmed -- even as lawmakers from both parties demanded the administration hold Russia accountable if there is evidence that the bounty offers occurred.

Trump Pressed by Both Parties for Answers on Bounty Report

  Trump Pressed by Both Parties for Answers on Bounty Report Lawmakers from both parties called on the Trump administration to provide more information about intelligence that Russia put a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with Democrats questioning why President Donald Trump hasn’t responded. © Bloomberg Steny Hoyer Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said after getting a briefing at the White House Tuesday that he isn’t sure whether Trump has yet heard details about the intelligence days after the first public reports about it. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.

Trump’s only public remark on the reports was a tweet that an intelligence official he didn’t name told him the bounty allegations weren’t credible -- even though White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Monday that there’s no consensus on their veracity.

Trump’s reluctance to confront Russia has spawned lingering fears among U.S. lawmakers and allies overseas that Trump prefers to remain willfully ignorant when it comes to allegations of President Vladimir Putin’s plotting against the U.S.

Republicans as well as Democrats demanded the administration provide additional details. GOP lawmakers went to the White House for briefings on Monday while House Democrats received a separate briefing Tuesday.

Trump Is Testing Putin’s Campaign Strategy

  Trump Is Testing Putin’s Campaign Strategy How far will Russia go to save a sinking investment?News that Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying bounties for killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and that President Donald Trump was briefed about it and took no action, is the latest shocking/unsurprising twist in a long and sordid saga. Some day, perhaps, the American people will learn why Trump is so subservient to Putin. Meanwhile, another important question is how far Putin is willing to go to help Trump get re-elected.

There is “certainly” evidence of Russian involvement in Afghanistan with regard to placing bounties on U.S. troops, House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith said Tuesday after returning from the White House.

Earlier: Trump’s Intelligence Director Vows to Investigate Bounty Reports

The latest Russia episode is becoming a growing political crisis for a president who is trailing his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, in polls and struggling to defend his handling of the resurgent coronavirus outbreak at the same time as nationwide protests against police brutality and racism continue.

On Monday night, the director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, vowed to investigate the allegations and brief lawmakers and the president about his conclusions.

But Ratliffe, a former Republican congressman who was confirmed in May, devoted much of his statement to a rebuke of the person or persons behind the allegations.

Pompeo pushes back on Russian bounty reports

  Pompeo pushes back on Russian bounty reports Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused journalists of spreading misinformation related to reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-backed fighters to kill U.S. service members in Afghanistan. © The Hill Pompeo pushes back on Russian bounty reports The secretary further refused to discuss what he knew of intelligence briefings about the bounties, saying such public discussions put American soldiers at risk. "A lot of what you said suggests knowledge that I don't think you actually have," Pompeo told one reporter who asked about the Russian bounties.

“The selective leaking of any classified information disrupts the vital interagency work to collect, assess, and mitigate threats and places our forces at risk. It is also, simply put, a crime,” he said.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, echoed his criticism in her own statement: “Leaks compromise and disrupt the critical interagency work to collect, assess, and ascribe culpability.”

Separately, the Associated Press reported that White House officials were aware in early 2019 about intelligence suggesting Russia was offering bounties -- a year earlier than was previously reported. The AP, which cited U.S. officials with direct knowledge, said the information was included in Trump’s daily intelligence briefing, a written report, at the time

A New York Times report, citing two unnamed officials, said an account of the Russian bounties was included in the President’s Daily Brief in late February 2020.

Read More: Russia Blasts Reports of Bounties on U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Trump’s response to the reports highlights his complicated and often adversarial relationship with the U.S. intelligence community. In 2018, he stood next to Putin in Helsinki and publicly challenged his own agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Trump also repeatedly rejected Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference as a “witch hunt.”

Former NATO commander says Trump's failure to act on intelligence Russia paid militants to kill US troops is a 'betrayal'

  Former NATO commander says Trump's failure to act on intelligence Russia paid militants to kill US troops is a 'betrayal' "That a president would do so little to protect the people to whom he has a sacred obligation is unfathomable," the retired US general wrote."That a president would do so little to protect the people to whom he has a sacred obligation is unfathomable," retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who served as the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.

The latest intelligence -- which suggests Russia offered Taliban-linked militants money to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan, and that has been circulating within the Washington intelligence community for months -- risked once again isolating Trump from U.S. allies who demanded information on the alleged plot.

Trump on Twitter dismissed New York Times reports about the intelligence as “possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax” after a top ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said it was imperative to “get to the bottom” of the allegations.

‘Not Verified’

White House aides said Monday that the president had not been fully read in on the allegations because of a lack of consensus among some U.S. intelligence agencies, who had not verified reports of the bounty program or that the rewards had been linked to U.S. troop deaths.

A Defense Department spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said Monday night that the department “has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations.”

The administration declined to elaborate on why officials doubted the reports. It also didn’t explain why the president -- in an apparent break from past practices -- was only receiving intelligence after it had been fully verified, even when the ramifications were so significant.

Trump Dismisses Russian Bounty Intelligence Reports as ‘Hoax’

  Trump Dismisses Russian Bounty Intelligence Reports as ‘Hoax’ President Donald Trump said he never heard about intelligence indicating Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan because many in the intelligence community doubted the evidence and he called the issue a “hoax” by his adversaries. © Bloomberg U.S. President Donald Trump. “This was something that never got presented to me -- and they know that -- never got presented because it didn’t rise to that level,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with Fox Business Network. “From what I hear, and I hear it pretty good, the intelligence people, many of them, didn’t believe it happened at all.

“Intelligence is verified before it reaches the president of the United States and in this case it was not verified,” McEnany told reporters.

Trump seemed eager for the story to go away. In recent days, he’s made no public appearances and has used Twitter mostly to complain about statues being defaced by those protesting racism, endorse Republican candidates and litigate his frustration with polls.

A Trump ally familiar with the underlying intelligence characterized it as extremely tenuous and not solid enough to brief the commander-in-chief.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told NBC News the allegations were “really ridiculous.”

‘We Need Answers’

Representative Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican among those briefed by the White House, said that it was “likely we’ll never know the truth” and accused his colleagues and the media of rushing “to judgment before learning the whole story.”

Yet concern over the allegations was bipartisan and growing. Senator Todd Young, another Indiana Republican, said in a letter to the president that if the reports were confirmed, they deserved a “strong and immediate response from our government” including the imposition of sanctions directly on Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he would work with the president “on a strong response” if the reports proved true.

“My No. 1 priority is the safety of our troops,” Inhofe said. “Right now, though, we need answers.”

The bounty price against US troops in Afghanistan reached as high as $100,000, report says

  The bounty price against US troops in Afghanistan reached as high as $100,000, report says The bounties against US troops netted upwards of $100,000, according to Afghan officials cited in The New York Times.Azizi, who is believed to be around 40, was implicated in US intelligence reports that named his as a central figure in the distribution of Russian-supplied money to pay for bounties against US troops deployed in Afghanistan, The Times reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday night that she had spoken to Haspel and Ratcliffe and “my call to each of them was to follow up on my formal request for a full House briefing on the intelligence surrounding Russian bounties.”

Earlier: U.S., Afghan Taliban Ink Peace Deal to Wind Down 18-Year War

Trump has come under repeated criticism for dismissing intelligence findings, and his lack of interest in written reports. Trump aides -- including former National Security Advisor John Bolton and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -- have said he can frequently have a short attention span and isn’t inclined to read lengthy material on any subject, particularly if it challenges his views or instincts.

Trump has also slow-walked congressional sanctions on Russian officials, sidestepped comment on the 2018 poisoning of a Russian double agent in the U.K., and invited Putin to participate in the G-7 summit after Russia’s removal from the gathering over its annexation of Crimea.

“His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale,” Biden said Saturday at a virtual town hall. “It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.”

Trump’s apparent lack of interest in Russia’s actions also threatens to deepen his isolation on the world stage, where other leaders have in recent weeks expressed dismay over his willingness to reincorporate Putin into summits like the G-7.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- among the world leaders with the closest relationship to Trump -- has threatened to veto Russia’s re-admittance to the group, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country’s “continued disrespect” for international norms should prohibit its return.

Trump’s announcement earlier this month that he was withdrawing tens of thousands of troops from Germany was seen in Berlin as a strike at Chancellor Angela Merkel as her nation looks to get tougher on Moscow after a 2015 cyberattack on the Budestag and the contract killing of a Chechen man in a German park.

Poll Disapproval Rising

The bounty reports surfaced at a particularly vulnerable time for Trump, with just 41% of Americans approving of his job performance in a recent NPR News/PBS poll of registered voters.

Some 72% of Americans surveyed by CBS News and YouGov said the Trump administration was unprepared to deal with the coronavirus outbreak as it was starting, and Democrats have repeatedly criticized Trump for pushing to quickly reopen businesses while championing untested potential cures.

The Washington Post reported in 2017 that former intelligence officials said Trump’s briefers would occasionally put Russian-related intelligence in the president’s written intelligence briefing -- but not raise the issue orally -- to avoid presidential ire that could derail a meeting.

McEnany could not say Monday whether the bounty intelligence had been included in written material provided the president.

(Updates with Adam Smith quote starting in sixth paragraph and AP report that White House was alerted to bounty intelligence last year in 12th paragraph.)

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Intel officials brief congressional leaders on reported Russian bounty on US troops .
Top intelligence officials will brief congressional leaders today on Russian bounties for Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. While the White House claims intelligence about the bounty reports was not fully verified by the U.S., a military official confirmed to ABC News on Sunday that Russian intelligence officers offered to pay Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan over the past year, amid peace talks to end the 18-year war there.

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