Russia

Trump Gonna Be So Mad About Russian Bounty On US Troops, Once Anybody Tells Him!

He'll get to it after he finishes livetweeting Fox & Friends.

"Well, I think the president can't single-handedly remember everything, I'm sure, that he's briefed on, but the intelligence officials are familiar with it and briefed him," Republican Senator John Cornyn told the Washington Post. Maybe it just slipped his mind that Russia had placed a bounty on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan. Whoopsie!

It's an odd thing to say when the president's reelection campaign is built around pretending that his opponent Joe Biden is senile. But with this Russian bounty story metastasizing by the hour, the GOP is in a tight spot.

Since the New York Times broke the news Saturday, the White House has offered several conflicting explanations for Trump's failure to protect American troops. First it was a hoax. Then it wasn't a hoax, but the president hadn't been briefed on it. Then the president might have been briefed on it, but maybe only in writing, and who could possibly expect him to read stuff anyway? Then it was back to being a hoax perpetrated by the New York Times book review.

Yesterday afternoon, White House spokesliar Kayleigh McEnany tried out another version, telling reporters, "There was not a consensus among the intelligence community. And, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified." Never mind that presidents are routinely briefed on potential dangers which haven't been firmly nailed down, and, according to the Times, the NSC found the information credible enough to prepare a range of possible responses, none of which got approved by the White House.

Then Trump's former director of national intelligence and current campaign staffer Ric Grenell was dispatched to yell at Democrats for politicizing intelligence while the White House huddled up with congressional Republicans to get their story straight.

Indiana Congressman Jim Banks emerged from the meeting triumphant, eager to implement "Operation Counterattack: Thank God There Won't Be Any More Leaks, Now We Can Blame the New York Times For Jeopardizing the Investigation." Nothing could go wrong!

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WARBLOGGING

Is Trump Too Stupid To Read Briefings About Putin Paying For American Scalps? Or Just Too Lazy?

Yes. The answer is yes.

When news broke this weekend that Russia has been paying the Taliban a bounty to kill US and Coalition troops in Afghanistan, and that the National Security Council has known about it since March, the White House issued its regular slew of nonsensical denials. The president hadn't been briefed. Or perhaps he hadn't received a verbal report. Or maybe it wasn't true and the New York Times book reviewers were just FAKE NEWSING about poor, innocent Russia again.

Clearly books, and indeed reading itself, are kryptonite for the Ignoramus-in-Chief. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted on Saturday that he hadn't been told about it, even though the New York Times reported that the Russian bounty plot had been included in the President's Daily Briefing, or PDB. After that, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe shifted from denials to "No comment."

So we all know where this is going — if Trump wasn't briefed, and the Times says he was, the damning information was definitely in the briefing book, and Trump just didn't read it. Because words are hard, and livetweeting Fox is so much more fun.

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WARBLOGGING

Russia Maybe Tried To Pay Taliban Militants To Kill U.S. Troops, Trump Don't Care

What else is new?

According to the New York Times, the Trump administration has, for months, been aware of an intelligence report concluding that a Russian military intelligence unit offered bounties to Afghan militants in cahoots with the Taliban to kill American soldiers, as part of their plan to destabilize the West. The administration was given this information in late March, and was given a variety of options for dealing with it. Rather than doing any of those things — sending a diplomatic complaint, doing sanctions, etc. — Trump went on about his business, ignored it, and even pushed for Putin and Russia to be let back into the G7.

Via The New York Times:

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The official spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, says that this none of this is true, and if you can't trust the Taliban to tell the truth, who can you?

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Cops Behaving Badly

How Are Republicans Stopping Trump's Lawless Brutality Today?

Ho ho ho, don't we have fun!

On June 2, NBC News reporter Kasie Hunt asked Republican Senators for a reaction to President Donald Trump's actions the previous evening. Trump, the head of the Republican Party whom Senate Republicans declined to remove from office in December, had police deploy tear gas and flashbang grenades to clear peaceful protestors in order to facilitate a photo op of the president standing meaningfully in front of a church that he does not attend.

During the brief event, which resulted in law-abiding citizens being menaced by a low-hovering military helicopter and a church rector being tear-gassed, Trump also displayed what may or may not have been a Bible in much the same way that one might hold up a lost umbrella in a crowded museum lobby or a bidding card at a cattle auction.

While many unenlightened people felt that Republicans could have taken this frivolous dip into full-on fascism as the cue to signal their willingness to fully participate in a new impeachment, kneecap Trump, and save our democracy, they in fact took far bolder positions than many people will ever understand. Below, a selection:

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