The statement speaks volumes about the nature of the Trump administration, faced with new criticism of the President’s supposed wait-and-see attitude, and his benevolence toward the Kremlin: “The President reads”, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House spokeswoman, said Tuesday. Trump is accused of not reading the notes sent to him by the intelligence services. “The President is the most knowledgeable person on planet Earth regarding the threats we face”, added Kayleigh McEnany who, upon arriving at the White House in April, adopted his boss’ superlative rhetoric.
According to an article of June 26 of New York Times, citing anonymous intelligence sources, Russia allegedly distributed bonuses to the Taliban for killing American and British soldiers in Afghanistan last year, while the United States was negotiating an agreement with them. Information transmitted in a written note to Donald Trump in late February. During a meeting between federal agencies, the National Security Council of the White House had proposed several options to respond to it.
Stressing that the information was not “No consensus”, and that there were “Divergent opinions” between agencies on this case, Kayleigh McEnany said that the allegations “Do not go back to the President until they are verified”. A process contradicted by many experts: “Consensus is not required for intelligence assessments, explains Eric Brewer, himself a member of the National Security Council from 2017 to 2018, now deputy director of the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. One of the most useful functions of the intelligence community is precisely to clarify on what point, and why, the agencies have diverging analyzes. ”
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Tuesday, New York Times put on a layer by revealing the existence of significant financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russian military intelligence to another, linked to the Taliban. Washington has previously accused Moscow of supporting the Taliban, but this central element would have convinced American intelligence of the existence of such a maneuver. Especially since it confirms information obtained separately, during interrogation of detainees.
The White House continues to harbor doubts as to whether Trump had been made aware of the matter, raising questions about his degree of involvement in these sensitive files. At the risk of endangering the forces deployed in Afghanistan: in 2019, 20 American soldiers were killed there, the deadliest year since 2014 for the United States army.
While suspicions of collusion between the Trump campaign team and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have poisoned his presidency since he came to power, the affair gives grain to the teeth of the elected members of Congress, four months from the presidential. They asked the director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, and the director of the American intelligence, John Ratcliffe, that they inform all the members of the House and the Senate on this file. With Donald Trump, “All roads lead to Putin”, denounced the Democratic President of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
Briefed at the White House on Tuesday, Democrats in the House said they had learned nothing new. It is “incomprehensible” that the head of state does not undertake to shed any light on this affair, nor denounce Putin, annoyed Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House committee on intelligence. “Many of us do not understand his affinity for an autocratic leader who wants to harm our nation”, he added.
Trump’s opponent in the November presidential election, Joe Biden, accused him on Monday of “to betray” American troops, in a “Embarrassing effort of deference and debasement before Putin”. The Kremlin, however, denies any involvement.
Republican Senate officials, who attended other meetings on the subject in the White House Monday and Tuesday, defended the President, maintaining the argument of divergences within American agencies. Trump “Cannot be made aware of every unverified item of intelligence services”, said Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. But if Americans are indeed targeted, there must be “Repercussions”, insisted Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, one of the few Republican voices in Congress to criticize Trump, insisted that it was a question of who knew what and when: “The commander-in-chief did he know? And if not, why the hell? ”
Isabelle Hanne correspondent in New York