Since at least February, and possibly
as early as March 2019, the
United States has had compelling
intelligence that a committed adversary,
Russia, paid bounties to Taliban linked
fighters to kill American troops in
Afghanistan. American service members
were reportedly killed as a result.

To this day, the president of the United
States has done nothing about it.

Instead, President Trump dismissed
the intelligence as not “credible” and “possibly
another fabricated Russia hoax,
maybe by the Fake News” that is “wanting
to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Mr. Trump also claimed that neither he
nor Vice President Mike Pence was ever
told about this critical intelligence before
it was first reported in The New York
Times. Setting aside for a moment the credulity
of that claim, whenever the president
learned of this deeply troubling intelligence,
why did he not publicly condemn
any Russian efforts to kill American soldiers
and explore options for a swift and
significant U.S. response?

None of this adds up. As a former national
security adviser, I find it exceedingly
difficult to believe that no one told
Mr. Trump about this intelligence.

It was reportedly contained in the president’s
daily briefing, which is provided to
all top-level national security officials.
Even if Mr. Trump does not read the daily
briefing, we must assume others do. If the
president’s senior advisers — Robert
O’Brien, the national security adviser;
Richard Grenell, who stepped down in
May as acting director of national intelligence;
and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,
among others — thought it was unnecessary
to inform him of this matter,
then they are not worthy of service.

White House officials claim it would be
improper to inform the president of such
information until it is fully verified and options
for the U.S. response had been prepared.
Yet the administration reportedly
informed the British government, and the
National Security Council convened an interagency
meeting in March to discuss the
intelligence and its implications.

Here’s what should have happened.
Had I, as national security adviser, received
even “raw” reporting that Russia
was paying to kill U.S. service members, I
would have walked straight into the Oval
Office to brief the president.

I would not have waited until we had absolute
certainty. I would have said, “Mr.
President, I want to make sure you are
aware that we have troubling reporting
that Russia is paying the Taliban to kill our
forces in Afghanistan. I will work with the
intelligence community to ensure the information
is solid. In the meantime, I will
convene the national security team to get
you some options for how to respond.”

If later the president decided, as Mr.
Trump did, that he wanted to talk with
President Vladimir Putin of Russia at
least six times over the next several
weeks and invite him to join the Group of 7
summit over the objections of our allies, I
would have thrown a red flag: “Mr. President,
I want to remind you that we believe
the Russians are killing American soldiers.
This is not the time to hand Putin an
olive branch. It’s the time to punish him.”

This is what would have happened in
any prior administration of either political

That it apparently did not raises myriad
questions. If Mr. Trump was told about
Russian actions, why did he not respond?

If he was not told, why not? Are his advisers
incompetent? Are they too scared to
deliver bad news to Mr. Trump, particularly
about Russia? Is Mr. Trump running
a rogue foreign policy utterly divorced
from U.S. national interests? If so, why?

A perilous pattern persists that underscores
Mr. Trump’s strange propensity to
serve Russian interests above America’s.
Recall that, during his 2016 campaign, Mr.
Trump publicly urged Russia to hack Hillary
Clinton’s emails and praised Wiki-
Leaks for publishing stolen documents.

He dismissed Russian interference in
the 2016 election, then took Mr. Putin at his
word at a Helsinki meeting while undercutting
the U.S. intelligence community,
and obstructed the Mueller investigation.
Mr. Trump recklessly removed U.S. troops
from northern Syria and allowed Russian
forces to take over American bases.

Next, Mr. Trump unilaterally invited
Mr. Putin to attend the Group of 7 meeting,
a move that apparently upended the annual
summit. Subsequently, without consultation,
Mr. Trump announced his decision
to remove nearly a third of U.S. troops
from Germany — a sudden withdrawal
that weakens the U.S.-German relationship
and harms NATO, while benefiting

Most recently, we see that even Russian
efforts to slaughter our troops do not faze
this president. Mr. Trump brushes off the
information, evades responsibility and
fails to take action — not even lodging a
diplomatic protest. Now Mr. Putin knows
he can kill Americans with impunity.

What must we conclude from all this?
At best, our commander in chief is utterly
derelict in his duties, presiding over a dangerously
dysfunctional national security
process that is putting our country and
those who wear its uniform at great risk.
At worst, the White House is being run by
liars and wimps catering to a tyrannical
president who is actively advancing our
arch adversary’s nefarious interests.

New York Times (United States)