New reports raise an urgent question: Is there any line that Trump will not allow Putin to cross? (opinion)

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It is important to understand whether President Donald Trump received information about this information if, in fact, he was reliable intelligence. If he is lying in his refusal to be informed and knew that our forces were at risk, the Americans would have reason to assess that Russia paying for the murder of Americans is not a red line for Trump.

The New York Times, which revealed the story, reported that Trump received information about the reward in March.
Trump said that is not true, before tweeting Sunday: "Intel informed me that they did not find this information credible and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russian hoax, perhaps because of the fake @nytimesbooks news, wanting to get Republicans look bad !!! "

In fact, there are times when presidents do not receive threat information, but that is usually because intelligence is unreliable if it is still under investigation and there is little confidence in its veracity.

In this particular case, there are indicators that officials had some degree of confidence in intelligence. A US official with knowledge of the matter confirmed to CNN that some steps were taken to protect US troops in light of intelligence. These steps may have been taken as an additional precaution while researching the information, but this is the type of development that is typically marked for a President of the United States.
The New York Times reported that a meeting was held at the White House to discuss possible response options. Even if it were a job-level meeting, it is atypical to hold a White House meeting to respond to threats if you don't think they exist.

Furthermore, according to Times reports, the information was shared with the United Kingdom, implying a level of relative confidence in its veracity. Reliability does not appear to be a limiting factor here. Even if the information was still under investigation, there were people who thought it was reliable enough to respond in various ways. Based on my four years in the White House, that generally warrants at least one mention of the President.

Reliable intelligence on threats to Americans can be provided to the President in several ways: the Presidential Daily Briefing, Briefing Notes, Oral Briefings Before Calls with Counterparts, and more. Therefore, while a president is likely to have reliable intelligence, there is no guarantee that this president has chosen to digest it.

It has had a closed door policy when it comes to intelligence on other threats to Americans, like Covid-19 or North Korea. Former national security adviser John Bolton recently said in an ABC News interview that Trump received intelligence reports infrequently and rarely read much when he did. Therefore, it would not be out of place for Trump to opt out of receiving intelligence reports that would have contained this recent threat report.
This has to be the worst of Trump's outrages

The only other explanation is that several members of the select Trump team failed, on multiple occasions, to inform him of this intelligence or to let him know that this threat complaint was being investigated. However it cuts it, incompetence brings with it fatal consequences. No steps were taken to punish Russia for allegedly attacking the Americans.

Unfortunately, this failure to hold Putin accountable is not a surprise. If the intelligence is correct, four years after Trump's presidency, Putin feels omnipotent enough to try to kill the Americans. Trump inaccurately blamed former President Barack Obama for allowing Russia to invade Ukraine when the reality is that Trump created an environment in which he is not only letting Putin attack our democracy, but potentially letting Putin attack American soldiers.

The failure of Trump to hold Putin personally accountable for countless previous illegal operations would give the Russian leader good reason to think Trump is a copycat even when it comes to the physical well-being of American troops.

Trump has shown little reluctance to cajole and reward despots who harm Americans. Just look at his praise for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even after American Otto Warmbier died after being jailed by Pyongyang. Or Trump's decision to "support Saudi Arabia" after the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was accused of ordering the murder of US resident Jamal Khashoggi.
When it comes to the Russian president, the administration not only failed to impose sanctions on Putin: Trump offered Putin awards such as inviting him to attend a G7 meeting and announcing a reduction of US forces in Germany that Putin undoubtedly likes.

It is important to follow the path of who knows what when, but we must remember that to date, Russia has not been punished. That means there can be continuous streams of live threats to our staff where Russia can pay powers to try to kill them.

If the allegations are true, the first order of business should be to impose costs on Russia so that they don't do it again. That will require the President to absorb the intelligence and use it (and not his insatiable desire to placate Putin) to drive real and informed political decisions. At the same time, it will require the President to coordinate with allies. A coordinated response to Putin will be more shocking.

Unfortunately, if the past is a prologue, Trump is allergic to those two things: integrating intelligence and coordinating with allies.

It's hard to imagine the president taking on Putin based on what appears to be his desire to keep Putin happy. But if the reports are true and murdering Americans is not a red line for POTUS, it is hard to imagine what it is.



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