Today is the day that the Gang of Eight—both Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate—are set to be briefed on the intelligence behind Russia’s scheme to murder American soldiers and destroy the peace process in Afghanistan by offering bounties to Taliban militants. Naturally, this briefing begins with a tweet from Donald Trump describing the entire story as a “hoax” cooked up by The New York Times. Which naturally ignores that the information has now been confirmed by the Washington Post, CNN, NBC … pretty much everyone. Intelligence even has the receipts showing transfer of funds from Russia to the Taliban.
Really, the only questions on the matter seem to be the ones that have been hauled out so many times they’re getting more than a little tattered: What did Trump know, and when did he know it? Even the answer to that should be obvious, as reports indicate that John Bolton briefed Trump on the issue over a year ago. However, Bolton has refused to provide any details out of concern over “national security.” Meaning, of course, that he’s fishing for a new book deal. That leaves the one other time when it’s absolutely known Trump was given the information on Russia’s cash-for-corpses plan: The daily brief on February 27. However, there remains the possibility that Trump never read that brief, because it was a very busy day. That’s the day Trump not only met with Diamond and Silk, he spent the morning talking with the lead actors in a play about the love notes between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
That’s not a joke … though there is certainly a joke in this story. And in that meeting. But on the day when it’s known that the Russian scheme to derail the peace process in Afghanistan and generate death by offering bounties for the murder of Americans, Trump met with the actors starring in an off-off-off-off Broadway production of FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers, which dramatized the mash notes between Strzok and Page. Trump was so fascinated by this topic, that the meeting ran three times longer than it was scheduled. So, anyone wondering why Trump might not have gotten around to cracking open his brief on that day … now you know.
In the afternoon, Trump called in the press to see Diamond and Silk, along with a collection of “Trump-friendly African-American media personalities,” describe Trump as “the best president since Lincoln.” Unlike the meeting with the Deep State players, this item was actually on Trump’s official schedule.
And that was his day. The concern at the time was mostly that Trump spent his time on trivial events and appears to have dedicated exactly 0% of his official schedule to dealing with the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Which is still a very solid concern. Now it just has company.
Trump has supposedly now been briefed—again—on the Russian efforts in advance of today’s briefing for congressional leaders. In advance of that meeting, Republicans are doing what they always do, backing the noted theater aficionado. Even senators who had earlier appeared to express concern over the issue, were singing along with the chorus by Tuesday, with the key phrase being “unverified and inconclusive.” After all, Trump denies it, Putin denies it. So who cares what the intelligence guys say?
After reviewing some of the available material on Tuesday, Senator Chuck Schumer had some comments. “If in fact Putin and his cronies have been sponsoring the murder of American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, there is no question that there should be swift and severe consequences,” said Schumer. “But unlike every previous administration I’ve ever worked with, the Trump administration has been shockingly weak-kneed when it comes to authoritarian leaders like Putin.”
But Trump wasn’t alone in wearing out his knees. “The main point is the intelligence was not verified,” Republican Senator Ron Johnson said. “It wasn’t at the level of actionable intelligence. It wasn’t at the level that they notified the president.” Actually, it does seem to have been at the level that they notified Trump.
They just didn’t hire actors and stage a play.