Opinion » Viewpoint

“Bounty” Scandal Shows Again How Putin Owns Trump


Stop it!

There is no way to explain President Trump’s lack of action in response to U.S. intelligence showing Russia paid bounties for the murder of American soldiers. Even worse, there is no explanation for why congressional Republicans aren’t raising hell over Trump’s silence.
Juan Williams
  • Juan Williams

Some military veterans are speaking up: “Putin pays bounties to Taliban enemies to kill American soldiers and not a word from Donald Trump,” says the narrator in an ad from the group “VoteVets.” In a different ad from the same group, the narrator says: “Benedict Arnold can step aside, because Benedict Donald is America’s No. 1 traitor.”

I get uneasy when political players start throwing around loaded words like “traitor.” But what’s the choice now? Trump’s only defense is to say he was not told about the intelligence and did not read his briefing book.

“Either way, it is an unjustifiable dereliction of duty,” tweeted Joe Biden, the Democrats’ nominee for president.

Trump is also hiding behind the fact that the intelligence is not totally confirmed. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed the idea that Trump did not react to the report because the intelligence agencies did not have a “100 percent consensus.” She called it a “con.”

“We would practically be investigating nothing if you had to start off at 100 percent. … Just because they didn’t have 100 percent consensus, should this not be briefed to the president of the United States?” Pelosi said.

Keep in mind the seriousness of the Russian bounty report. The Washington Post reported that in April 2019 there was an attack in Afghanistan killing three Marines and “those who planned it may have been paid a bounty by a Russian military intelligence unit to kill Americans.”

So it is hard to say which is worse: Either Trump did not read his written briefing report or his aides thought it best not to tell him. Whatever the case, it is shockingly clear that the President of the United States did nothing.

So, where is the shouting from all those flag-waving congressional Republicans? Their current silence reminds me of their quiet when the Trump administration did nothing to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Trump even enlisted fellow Republicans in demonizing the FBI for looking into the plot.

Trump called the probe into Russian election interference a “hoax.” Now he is calling news of the Russian bounty intelligence a “hoax.” He is keeping Republicans in line by linking the election-tampering probe to the questions about the bounty scandal. He said this latest outrage is “possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax … wanting to make Republicans look bad!!”

But it is an outrage to play politics with a matter of life and death for American soldiers.  And it is particularly galling when you consider how they attacked people who asked questions about the Iraq War — people like me. They smeared critics of Bush’s Iraq War as traitors. So, where are today’s Republicans calling out the Trump administration for its lack of response?

The only action by the Trump administration has been to start a probe to find out who leaked news of the intelligence reports to newspapers. That diversionary tactic is consistent with Trump’s failure to handle foreign affairs throughout his presidency.

The American people see it. In the current RealClearPolitics average of polls, 52 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of foreign policy. Trump’s foreign policy failures are too numerous to list in one column, but here are some of the lowlights:

Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has not only cost Americans jobs but has ceded our leadership role in the world to countries like China.

“Trump didn’t want to hear [early reports about the coronavirus in China] because he didn’t want to hear bad things about [Chinese leader] Xi Jinping. … He didn’t want to hear bad things about the Chinese economy that could affect the ‘fantastic’ trade deal he was working on,” former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton recently told ABC News.

Trump failed to act against North Korea for the murder of American student Otto Warmbier and never got a nuclear deal with Kim Jong-un.

He has exacerbated tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians by giving enormous concessions to the Netanyahu government.

And perhaps, most dangerously, Trump failed to halt Iran’s nuclear program after ripping up President Obama’s nuclear deal — which was working.

The Democratic National Committee has started running ads hitting Trump’s stumbles on foreign policy. “Trump said he’d get tough on China,” a narrator intones. “He didn’t get tough. He got played.”

And once again, Trump — and our troops and the American people — are getting played by Russia.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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