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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.