UPDATE: In April 2021, 10 months after The New York Times, Associated Press and Washington Post reported on U.S. intelligence that Russia had offered secret bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, the Biden administration said that CIA analysts only have “low to moderate confidence” that the bounty program ever existed.
Critics erupted Saturday after an explosive New York Times story asserting that Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly offered a bounty to Afghanistan militants for American soldiers they killed — and that Donald Trump knew about it.
Both the White House and Putin denied the story Saturday, but it was concerning enough that several critics spoke out. The hashtag “Tre45on” — the 45 here referencing Trump’s status as the 45th president — was trending nationally on Twitter.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden that if the report is true, it is a “truly shocking revelation.”
Not only has Trump allegedly “failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, but Donald Trump has also continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin,” said Biden.
He called Trump’s presidency a “gift to Russia.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called the behavior “traitorous.”
The Times reported Friday that Trump was informed by U.S. intelligence in March that a Russian military intelligence unit offered rewards to Islamist militants last year for successful attacks on American and coalition troops. American intelligence believed that some bounty money was paid, according to the Times.
Despite being informed of the situation, Trump took no action, sources told the Times. Not only that, but he offered to invite Putin to attend the G-7 Summit in September, despite the strong objections of Canada and Britain, the Kremlin said this month.
Veteran journalist Dan Rather indicated the story was not out of the realm of possibility, given Trump’s mysterious devotion to Russia’s president for possible reasons “ranging from craven to treasonous.”
The never-Trumper GOP Lincoln Project — founded by lawyer George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway — quickly turned around an ad lashing Trump over the situation. “How can Trump lead America when he can’t even defend it?” it asked.
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said it’s time for Trump “to go,” and called him a “puppet” of Putin.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied in a press briefing that Trump was informed of the bounty on American troops. “The CIA Director, national security adviser, and the chief of staff can all confirm that neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” McEnany said.
The Russian Embassy said in a tweet that the Times’ reporting was an attempt to create “new fake stories.”