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Trump denies reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops
The New York Times reported Friday that U.S. intelligence officials concluded “months ago” that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan, including American troops.
The White House was slow to respond to the alleged intelligence conclusion — which was confirmed by the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, among other outlets — but quickly denied that President Trump had been briefed on the matter. (The denial rebutted reporting by the Times and the Associated Press; both outlets claimed Trump had been briefed on the bounties.)
The president went a step further Sunday evening, seeking to instill doubt in the intelligence itself. “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or [the vice president],” Trump tweeted. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News [New York Times], wanting to make Republicans look bad!!”
However, the Washington Post reported Sunday that the bounties were “believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members,” while the New York Times reported that the intelligence assessment stemmed from intelligence officers’ suspicicons dating as far back as January.
Additionally, according to the Associated Press, the Trump administration will brief select members of Congres on the intelligence assessment today, suggesting some measure of credibility.
According to the Times, administration officials have discussed “a menu of potential options” to respond to Russia, from a diplomatic complaint to sanctions, in recent months. “The White House has yet to authorize any step,” the Times added.
Trump’s alleged inaction in response to bounties placed on U.S. troops sparked immediate criticism from his Democratic rivals and even some Republicans. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee called the Times report a “truly shocking revelation” which was part of Trump’s “embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin.”
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, demanded the White House explain, if the intelligence assessment was true, why the president hadn’t been briefed on it and detail “what has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable.”
The reporting comes at a tenuous time for Trump, as coronavirus cases climb and his polling numbers plummet. He is also facing increased criticism from his own party, including some of his former allies.
One of them, Trump’s former national security adviser turned ardent critic John Bolton, accused him Sunday of denying he had been briefed because his “fundamental focus is not the security of our forces, but whether he looks like he wasn’t paying attention.”
Bolton, who served at Trump’s side for nearly 18 months, added that the Russian bounty story was “one of the most serious matters” he believed had “arisen” in the three-plus years since Trump assumed his office.
Coronavirus cases surpass 10 million globally: “The coronavirus pandemic reached a new milestone on Sunday, with confirmed deaths surpassing half a million around the world and the number of confirmed cases topping 10 million.”
“According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, there were 10,063,319 confirmed cases and 500,108 deaths globally by late Sunday afternoon. The number of cases is likely much higher, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing this week that for every reported case, there were 10 other estimated infections in the United States.”
“More than 2.5 million of those confirmed cases are in the United States. The countries with the next highest totals are Brazil, Russia, India and the United Kingdom.” (NPR)
--- “Unlike Trump, Pence encourages wearing masks to prevent coronavirus spread” (NBC)
--- “With Trump leading the way, America’s coronavirus failures exposed by record surge in new infections” (Washington Post)
Trump campaign struggles to reset: “President Trump and his campaign team are grappling with how to resuscitate his imperiled reelection effort amid a wave of polling that shows him badly trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and losing traction even among core constituencies.”
“Some Trump advisers and allies are privately pushing for sweeping changes to the campaign, including the idea of a major staff shake-up and trying to convince the president to be more disciplined in his message and behavior.”
“But so far, the campaign has settled only on incremental changes — such as hiring and elevating a handful of operatives who worked on Trump’s upset victory in 2016 — and has yet to settle on a clear message for his reelection. Campaign officials and other advisers are also still struggling with how to best focus their attacks on Biden, which so far have been scattershot and have failed to curb his rise among voters.” (Washington Post)
--- “Trump admits it: He's losing” (Politico)
--- “How the Trump Campaign Is Drawing Obama Out of Retirement” (New York Times)
The president’s “white power” retweet: “President Donald Trump promoted a video on Twitter on Sunday morning showing a man in a golf cart with Trump campaign gear shouting ‘white power.’ ”
“The video, which Trump said was from the Florida retirement community known as The Villages, featured a parade of golf carts, some with pro-Trump signs, driving past anti-Trump protesters who were shouting curses at them. The man who is heard shouting ‘white power’ was responding to protesters shouting ‘racist.’ ”
“The tweet was removed from his feed hours later.” (NBC)
*All times Eastern
President Donald Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 1 p.m.
The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The chamber will hold a procedural vote to advance the $740 billion defense bill at 5:30 p.m.
The House will convene at 9 a.m. and consider four pieces of legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act, the Protecting Your Credit Score Act, and a resolution overriding a recent regulatory action by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
The Supreme Court justices will release orders at 9:30 a.m. and opinions at 10 a.m.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.
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