THE FATHER of a marine who may have been killed in a Russian bounty-linked attack in Afghanistan has slammed the Trump administration over their alleged mishandling of classified information.
Erik Hendriks, whose son Cpl. Robert Hendriks was killed in an April 2019 attack on an American convoy, said that if President Donald Trump’s team was told about possible Russian bounties and didn’t investigate, he has “lost all respect for this administration.”
Cpl. Robert Hendriks was killed in a 2019 attack on an American convoy in Afghanistan[/caption]
Trump said he was not briefed on the Russian bounties[/caption]
A report from the New York Times last week claimed that Russia was secretly offering paid bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of American soldiers – and that the Trump administration had been briefed on the matter months ago.
The Associated Press is now reporting that top White House officials knew of classified intelligence on the alleged bounties in early 2019, a full year earlier than was previously reported.
Cpl. Hendriks was killed, along with two other US Marines, Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman and Sgt. Benjamin Hines, after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their vehicle as they returned to a US military installation in Afghanistan.
Hendriks’ father said that even if White House officials did not believe the Russian bounty intel to be true, it should have been immediately addressed anyway, according to AP.
The Trump administration slammed the reports as “fake news”[/caption]
Trump has worked to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin while in office[/caption]
“If this was kind of swept under the carpet as to not make it a bigger issue with Russia, and one ounce of blood was spilled when they knew this, I lost all respect for this administration and everything,” he said.
The intel indicating Russia was offering the bounties was included in at least one of the president’s written daily intelligence briefings in early 2019, according to the new report from AP, citing US officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
Former national security adviser John Bolton, who recently drew much ire from Trump’s camp for writing a tell-all memoir about his time in the White House, reportedly told colleagues that he briefed Trump on the Russia intel as early as March 2019.
Bolton refused to comment on the issue on Monday, however, when asked.
Over the weekend, the former White House staffer suggested that Trump was claiming ignorance about the intel to justify the fact that his administration did not respond.
The White House said that Trump wasn’t – and has still not been – briefed on the Russia bounty claims because they haven’t been fully verified.
The president took to Twitter on Sunday morning to deny that he knew “about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source’ by the Fake News @nytimes.”
“Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump administration,” he continued.
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The report naturally raises questions about why the Trump administration would choose not to act or investigate Russia if the president truly had been briefed on the bounties, considering the fact that the lives of American soldiers would be at risk.
After reports of Russian bounties first came out last week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called Trump’s actions a “betrayal.”
“His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond pale,” Biden said at a virtual town hall on Saturday. “It’s betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.”