‘This is all a Fake News Hoax’

Written by SK Ashby

It's been clearly established that the Russian program that offered bounties on American service members to militants in Afghanistan was real, but even if it's clear as day that doesn't mean Trump is going to do anything about it.

He won't even acknowledge its existence and, in typical fashion, he's making this all about himself.

Trump said this morning that the whole story, and especially the part about him being briefed, is a "fake news media hoax."

In morning tweets, Trump continued to dismiss media reports on the episode, writing that “this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party.”

“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale,” he said, taking issue in particular with reports that he had received briefings on intelligence about the alleged bounties.

The problem with writing all of this off as "fake news" is that members of Congress have now been briefed on the Russian program. They've seen the intelligence and it's real.

Trump's current national security adviser Robert O’Brien has admitted that the National Security Council discussed potential responses to the bounty program, but he also left room for plausible deniability (for Russia) by saying the responses were only prepared if the intelligence "turned out to be true."

“I can tell you this, if this information turned out to be true, and now we may never know, but if it turned out to be true, we had options ready to go, and the president was ready to take strong action, as he always is.”

If you're curious why O'Brien would say we "may never know," that's the Trump regime's new attack on media outlets for reporting the existence of the bounty program.

According to O'Brien, they can't verify the intelligence now because the New York Times and Washington Post gave the game away, but that doesn't add up.

The Times reported that a coordinated effort with local authorities in Afghanistan led to the arrest of businessmen who operated as the middlemen for making bounty payments. Raids on their homes led to the recovery of American dollars transferred from bank accounts belonging to Russian military intelligence. The Associated Press also reported that the program was first discovered and included in the President's Daily Brief a full year ago so it's not as if they haven't had time to verify all of this.

O’Brien spoke to reporters outside the White House this morning where he acknowledged that intelligence on the bounty program was shared with allies and coalition partners in Afghanistan. Both American and allied forces took the intelligence into account when altering their force protection tactics according to O'Brien.

Does that sound like something you would do if it hasn't been verified? Would we tell forces on the ground that there's a target on their heads if we weren't sure about it?

O'Brien isn't straight up denying the substance of the intelligence. In fact, he has confirmed most of it and even told us something we didn't know, but he's trying to thread a political needle for Trump that leaves him political room to deny it.

Trump is determined to cover Russia's ass for whatever time he has remaining in office no matter how implausible or ridiculous it looks.