Despite the fact that the allegation that Trump ignored intelligence on alleged Russian bounties on U.S. troops has been debunked, the left is still clinging to the story, hoping it will be their next Trump/Russia collusion hoax. Barack Obama’s former national security adviser Susan Rice recently penned an op-ed in the New York Times, essentially disputing the claims that Trump wasn’t aware of the intelligence. “As a former national security adviser, I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that no one told Mr. Trump about this intelligence,” she claimed.
Here’s what should have happened. Had I, as national security adviser, received even “raw” reporting that Russia was paying to kill U.S. service members, I would have walked straight into the Oval Office to brief the president.
Contrary to the spin-masters in the White House today, I would not have waited until we had absolute certainty. I would have said, “Mr. President, I want to make sure you are aware that we have troubling reporting that Russia is paying the Taliban to kill our forces in Afghanistan. I will work with the intelligence community to ensure the information is solid. In the meantime, I will convene the national security team to get you some options for how to respond to this apparent major escalation in Russia’s hostile actions.”
If later the president decided, as Mr. Trump did, that he wanted to talk with President Vladimir Putin of Russia at least six times over the next several weeks and invite him to join the Group of 7 summit over the objections of our allies, I would have thrown a red flag: “Mr. President, I want to remind you that we believe the Russians are killing American soldiers. This is not the time to hand Putin an olive branch. It’s the time to punish him.”
According to Rice, “That it apparently did not is deeply troubling and raises myriad questions.”
If Mr. Trump was told about Russian actions, why did he not respond? If he was not told, why not? Are his top advisers utterly incompetent? Are they too scared to deliver bad news to Mr. Trump, particularly about Russia? Is Mr. Trump running a rogue foreign policy utterly divorced from U.S. national interests? If so, why?
Rice’s argument is belied by the facts. The intelligence wasn’t simply “raw” or “unverified.” An “intelligence official with direct knowledge” told Catherine Herridge of CBS News that intel on alleged Russian bounties only reached “low levels” of the NSC but “did not go further” because it was deemed “uncorroborated” and because of “dissent” within the intelligence community regarding its accuracy. The Department of Defense also said there was no corroborating evidence for the Russian bounties claim. An NSC official also told Herridge that a review of Trump’s Presidential Daily Briefings showed that the intelligence assessment about the Russian bounties was not included in them. If the intelligence was disputed and uncorroborated, it seems very unlikely that anyone would have made a point to inform Trump about this intelligence. If presidents were made aware of every bit of disputed and uncorroborated intelligence there was, one can only imagine how little time there would be for anything else.
Nevertheless, Rice concludes that Trump is guilty of dereliction of duty.
What must we conclude from all this? At best, our commander in chief is utterly derelict in his duties, presiding over a dangerously dysfunctional national security process that is putting our country and those who wear its uniform at great risk. At worst, the White House is being run by liars and wimps catering to a tyrannical president who is actively advancing our arch adversary’s nefarious interests.
What Susan Rice didn’t realize when she wrote this op-ed, is that she just made the most compelling case that Barack Obama, her former boss, is the one who is guilty of dereliction of duty.
Applying the Susan Rice standard to Barack Obama
While the evidence is clear that President Trump didn’t ignore the uncorroborated and disputed intelligence about alleged Russian bounties on U.S. troops, we do know that President Obama was repeatedly briefed about the rise of ISIS, but failed to respond to this intelligence.
Is it possible Obama didn’t see the intel? It’s theoretically possible he missed multiple warnings. According to a former aide in the Obama administration, Obama got all his intelligence briefings in writing. “And it’s well-understood why,” explained the aide. “No one sits and watches him read them, and no one can come back later and tell Congress in a closed session that ‘I told the president this specific thing was likely to happen.'”
There are two possible explanations: (1) Obama saw the intelligence and did nothing, or (2) he never saw the intelligence.
Let’s consider the second option for a moment. While the Russian bounties intel only reached low levels at the NSC because it was disputed and uncorroborated, a former Pentagon official confirmed that detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of ISIS was included in Obama’s Presidential Daily Briefings. The intelligence on the rise of ISIS was also described as “highly accurate” and “actionable.”
According to Rice, any national security advisor in a previous administration would have gone to the president with unverified intel of such a serious nature, and would “not have waited until we had absolute certainty.” It stands to reason that any national security advisor in a previous administration would have gone to the president about “highly accurate” and “actionable” intelligence to make sure the president had been briefed on it. Yet, Obama once claimed that the White House was caught off guard about the rise of ISIS.
To channel Susan Rice: This raises myriad questions. If Obama was informed about intelligence about the rise of ISIS, why did he not respond? If he was not told, why not? Were his top advisors utterly incompetent? Were they too scared to deliver bad news to Obama, particularly about the Middle East? Was Obama running a rogue foreign policy utterly divorced from U.S. national interests? If so, why?
Obama’s national security advisor at the time of the rise of ISIS was Susan Rice’s predecessor, Tom Donilon, who served in that position from October 8, 2010 to July 1, 2013. By Susan Rice’s own explanation, Donilon would have “walked straight into the Oval Office to brief the president” on the intelligence. So, even if Obama failed on numerous occasions to read his PDBs on the rise of ISIS, he had to know about it, because he would have been told directly by his national security advisor.
So, according to Susan Rice, Obama knew about the rise of ISIS and did nothing about it. How many Americans and U.S. troops were killed by ISIS or ISIS-inspired individuals because Obama failed to act? Too many.
By Susan Rice’s own words, Barack Obama is guilty of dereliction of duty.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis