Contradictory messages from the president and his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, only deepened the intrigue about what is really happening.
Bernstein's story and Trump's unfathomable relationship with Russia, a nation with which he had past trade relations and denies having interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, boils down to the same foreboding question about Trump's presidency: Does he act on interest of the United States? or yours?
In less general terms, Monday's confusing events left important questions unanswered. Specifically, whether the President had been informed of such explosive intelligence about Russia and the US troops in Afghanistan. If the President was not informed of such a fundamental threat to the security of the US and US troops abroad, why was the information not brought to him? Was it contained in your written intelligence briefs, which multiple reports say you despise reading, or ignored? And why hasn't Trump been more forthright in vowing to keep American troops safe since reports began surfacing three days ago?
More uncertainty surrounds the steps, if any, the United States took to warn Russia and protect American troops, even if it was unsure of the source of the information that Russia's GRU agency offered money to Islamic militants to find American targets.
The same playbook from Russia
There's a constant in every new twist to the drama about Russia that has eclipsed every day of Trump's tenure in the Oval Office.
In a Sunday night tweet, Trump insisted that "Intel simply informed me that they did not find this credible information and therefore did not report it to me."
McEnany, however, contradicted Trump's certainty.
"There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations, and indeed, there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community regarding the veracity of what is reported, and the veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated, "he said. said.
McEnany's phrase about the lack of consensus on intelligence reports seemed to give the information much more credibility than Trump's statement that it was not credible, but it was yet another "hoax" from Russia.
Various intelligence sources publicly and privately disputed that it was necessary to reach a consensus in the secret world before drawing the President's attention to such information.
David Priess, a former CIA officer who wrote a book about the President's Daily Brief, rejected McEnany's reasoning.
"This is exactly the kind of thing the President's Daily Brief was created for, to make sure the President has the most up-to-date analysis and assessment of what is almost always uncertain intelligence. Things are not put in the Summary President's newspaper only when fully corroborated and verified, "Priess told CNN.
Two former top intelligence officials told CNN's Jamie Gangel that it was "inconceivable" in any previous White House that the president had not been informed of such serious intelligence and that the commander-in-chief would be informed with warnings included.
The idea that intelligence was not corroborated enough to carry Trump was undermined by the fact that Washington appears to have discussed it with its foreign partners. Over the weekend, a European military intelligence official told CNN that the Russian military intelligence agency's plan had caused coalition casualties.
McEnany's careful writing at his briefing also left open the possibility that the warning would be included in the classified and written material delivered to Trump and omitted or ignored it.
"You were not personally informed on the matter. That is all I can share with you today," said McEnany.
But a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the latest information said the intelligence was contained in Trump's daily reports sometime in the spring.
Multiple reports, and former national security adviser John Bolton in his new book, have said that Trump rarely reads or worries about written material.
"Almost never, according to CNN sources, would Trump read the informational materials prepared for him by CIA and NSC personnel before his calls with the heads of state," Bernstein reported.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi wondered aloud in an interview with CNN why Trump was not informed about the serious threats to US troops.
"If you were not informed, why would you not be informed?" Pelosi told CNN's Jake Tapper.
"Were they afraid to approach him on the subject of Russia?" Pelosi said. "Were you concerned if you were told what you would say to Putin? So there are many things left to do."
Trump & # 39; should be informed & # 39;
Suspicions about the White House's motives are exacerbated by the way he handled the allegations. On the one hand, Trump has not made a public statement before the camera promising to do whatever it takes to defend American troops, a step that a US president would normally be expected to take as normal.
The White House on Monday briefed a small group of members of the Republican Chamber on the matter at a meeting that seemed more like an effort to bolster its political defense against accusations on the matter rather than attract key decision-makers. national security decisions on Capitol Hill. tie.
"It is really unfortunate that everything has been leaked because it will really serve to dry that information," Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois told reporters. "In terms of whether the President should have been informed, from everything I've seen, I think it's accurate to say that he shouldn't have reached his level at that point because there was conflicting intelligence."
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, who posed specific questions about the latest controversy over Russia, was also at the briefing and released a statement along with Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who appeared to give intelligence much more credibility. that the White House lends it.
"After today's briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have attacked US forces," the two lawmakers said.
Amid mounting political clash, several House Democrats, including California Intelligence President Adam Schiff, are expected to receive a briefing on Tuesday.
"It is often the case that the president is informed, should be informed, about matters where there is no absolute certainty about intelligence on a given issue," Schiff said on CNN's "The Situation Room".
At the end of another day of intrigue in Russia, as corrosive to American interests as ever, the same questions were left unanswered.
Why can Trump never speak directly to the American people about Russia?