Over the weekend, the New York Times published a shocking story claiming that the GRU — the same Russian spies who interfered in the 2016 U.S. election — paid Taliban-linked Afghan militia to attack coalition forces, including Americans. Per the report, President Donald Trump was allegedly briefed on the operation in March and did nothing.
The White House and Trump himself are angrily denying the reporting that the president knew of this, adding that U.S. intelligence disagreed on the significance of the information. Yet multiple other outlets, including the U.K.’s Sky News, have subsequently confirmed the details.
There’s little reason to take stock in the administration’s denials, particularly on anything Russia-related.
Previous reporting has revealed two things about this president: One, Trump rarely reads the Presidential Daily Brief, the written summary of intelligence findings, preferring minimal oral reports. Two, because of Trump’s unusual relationship with Vladimir Putin, briefers routinely dance around potential Russia-damaging information. Thus, the denial that Trump was briefed doesn’t rule out that it could have been in the written daily brief — and Trump just didn’t focus; it also could mean that grim findings were purposely sugar-coated.
Nor is it yet clear with what confidence the intelligence community asserted the claim.
It is Congress’ job to determine whether Trump ignored flashing red sirens, whether the intel agencies glossed over what they knew or whether, in fact, there’s less there there than suggested in the Times report. Do it, and do it now. American troops remain in harm’s way.