Trump, Rus­sia & the truth

New York Daily News - - EDITORIAL -

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 Tal­iban­linked Afghan mili­tia to at­tack coali­tion forces, in­clud­ing Amer­i­cans. Per the re­port, Pres­i­dent 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.

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