‘You Can Pick the Side of U.S. Troops or You Can Pick the Side of Vladimir Putin’

‘You Can Pick the Side of U.S. Troops or You Can Pick the Side of Vladimir Putin’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Donald Trump’s trouble is deepening over allegations that he had been briefed about Russian operatives paying Afghan insurgents bounties to kill US troops.

White House officials knew as far back as 2019 that a Russian intelligence unit had offered the Taliban bounty money for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan, according to Monday reporting from the Associated Press.

Of particular concern is whether Trump or his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, who has access to the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), a run-down of critical Intelligence, saw information about the bounties in the PDB. And why Trump would have not only done nothing to respond to the bounties against US troops but he actually encouraged Russian inclusion in the global G-7 group of nations.

“The president is not keeping us safe. He is not reading intelligence. He’s not doing his job. And this is just another confirmation of everything we know,” said Brett McGurk, a US diplomat who has held posts under several administrations, including Trump’s. “But this is very serious. It’s in the PDB. Did he not read it? Why not? Jared gets the PDB. Did he read it? Did he say, ‘Hey, Mr. President, we’ve got an issue here? What are these people doing?’ So this just raises a host of questions, and I really hope Congress and somebody gets to the bottom of it.”

MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt indicated that Trump and his Republican allies haven’t have satisfactory answers to basic questions, even from other Republicans like Rep Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

“Well, Mika, we obviously have to put that question to Republicans. And I think that third piece of what Liz Cheney underscores there, what is being done is a question every lawmaker has a duty to answer now that they are aware through the public reporting that this was going on,” Hunt said during Morning Joe, referring to the third point in Cheney’s tweet. “I mean, we’re still trying to figure out who, if anyone, in Congress knew why, if they would have talked to them or not. My colleague Ken Dilanian has some reporting that congressional officials were perhaps briefed but the AP says that that briefing is not going to happen until today. We’re still trying to nail down all those details.

“But I mean, the reality of this story, it just underscores that there really is no good answer for the president if he didn’t know because his intelligence officials were afraid to bring it up to him and underscore it because they weren’t sure if he would approve one of the options they had on the table,” Hunt added. “The [New York] Times did report there were various potential options discussed. That’s a theme that’s come up in this presidency that he hasn’t been willing to take actions that are presented to him by his intelligence or he’s doubted the intelligence underneath it. Perhaps that’s part of what happened here. But there is no good explanation. Any one much these rabbit holes you go down has its own set of land mines and enormous problems for this president.”

What are needed at this point are full investigatory hearings in Congress, according to Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI.

“Let’s assume for the sake of argument that rarely, in a rare instance, the president is telling the truth that this didn’t rise to the level of briefing because it wasn’t credible. Well, here’s how this goes. We need to know a lot more about the vetting process, because what I’m hearing, Nicolle, from people still inside the intelligence community is that they are hesitant to even vet anti-Russia information that would be unpleasant for the president to hear,” he said in an interview with MSNBC host Nicholle Wallace. “So what I want to see is public hearings, certainly much of it will be have to be behind closed doors because it’ll be classified, but let’s have full hearings on not only this allegation but what was done to vet this out. If you say it’s not credible, what did you do? Or did you just shut it down?”

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough very strongly admonished Senate Republicans, however. Senate Republicans who are used to covering for Trump must, in this case, stand behind US troops, he said.

“And here’s the thing. It’s all going to come out. The truth is all going to come out. There are going to be people testifying before Congress, under oath. They’ve got the Presidential Daily Briefs. They have the intel. It’s all going to come out,” Scarborough said. “So, Republican senators, pick sides. And there are only two sides to pick here, by the way. There are only two sides to pick here. This isn’t about being a Democrat or Republican, a Trump supporter or Trump opponent.

“You can pick the side of U.S. troops or you can pick the side of [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin. There’s no gray zone here,” he added. “You can’t stick your head under the covers and pretend that Donald Trump is just going to go away. Because yes, he is. He’s going to get voted out. You think he is. So you think you can — no, you can’t hold on for six months. Speak out for our troops today.”

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