If you missed the blockbuster news Friday, June 26 — and you might have, considering coronavirus cases continue to surge in many Republican-led states and President Donald Trump continues to busy himself defending statues, trying to strip Americans of health insurance coverage during a pandemic and being generally incompetent — the New York Times reported Russia put a bounty on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Trump and his administration knew ... and they did nothing.
WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.
The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.
Trump and his administration's response was to not warn, threaten or repudiate Russia in any way. In fact, Trump continued to cozy up to Russia and president Vladimir Putin. The U.S. president lobbied for Russia to become a member of the G7, an alliance of top industrialized countries that work together to address global economic challenges.
Trump's fondness for Russia and Putin has never been a secret. Despite having members of his administration who are Russia hawks and push the president to be tougher on our longtime adversary, he continues to assuage the nation. It's almost as if they have something on Trump that he doesn't want revealed.
Here in North Dakota, we can expect the response from the state's all-Republican, all-Trump-lovin' congressional delegation to be nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Radio silence.
We've come to expect the trio of U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer and U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong to be complicit with Trump, no matter the subject. In this space and on Twitter, I routinely hammer Cramer for his unrequited love of the president. Cramer's machinations to attract Trump's attention and affection would be pathetic in the context of any other adult — would any other grown man grovel so shamelessly for the endearment of another grown man, particularly one as morally bankrupt and intellectually blank as Trump? — but Hoeven and Armstrong are little better.
Hoeven is the blank space he's always been, afraid of his own shadow and terrified to use any of his 75% approval rating to even mildly rebuke Trump. To be so spineless in the face of Trump's threat to our nation would be difficult for anybody who stood for anything other than what he's told to stand for.
Oh, and remember that Hoeven went to Moscow on July 4, 2018, on a secretive trip with other Republican congressmen. Very patriotic.
Armstrong has spent his brief time in Congress aligned with the staunchest of Trump defenders like Kevin McCarthy and Matt Gaetz. The former state representative is smart enough to know Trump is a disaster, and like Hoeven so filthy rich and electorally secure he can say whatever he wants with no fear of meaningful retribution, but instead of standing up for what's right Armstrong chooses to play in Deep State conspiracy theories about Gen. Michael Flynn and the Justice Department. Sad.
It would be easy for any of these three to speak out in support of the soldiers serving in Afghanistan, after all Republicans have long co-opted the flag and the military for political purposes. They are the party that is supposedly pro-military, pro-soldier, pro-veteran at all costs. To question anything the military does, in Republicans' eyes, is borderline treason. To endanger soldiers' lives must be something even worse than that, right?
Is that not something that should cross party lines? Can we all agree that a president looking the other way while a foreign country put a bounty on our soldiers' heads is antithetical to what this country is supposed to be?
Instead, North Dakota's current delegation of Trump-loving congressmen will say and do nothing. There is literally nothing the president could do that would cause them to criticize or even question him. Armstrong, in fact, posted a tweet Saturday tagging Trump on the second anniversary of the president's rally in Fargo.
Look at me, Mr. President! I'm thanking you! Look, over here!
It's like three teenagers smitten with a boy band.
Except it's not nearly as innocent.
Putin paid bounties for dead U.S. soldiers. Trump did nothing. He won't defend America or our soldiers.
And Republicans, including those from North Dakota, stand silent.
What good are they? Any of them?