Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton declined to say whether he personally briefed President Donald Trump on intelligence indicating that Russian operatives offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
But he said Trump’s evolving explanation since the publication of the New York Times story signals that the U.S. is ripe for the type of Russian interference that’s being alleged.
“What it tells the Russians is that we are in disarray and ripe for this kind of provocation, not just in Afghanistan but in many, many places around the world,” Bolton said in an interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” on Bloomberg Television and Radio.
The Trump administration is arranging a closed-door briefing on Wednesday for House and Senate leaders regarding the reports as lawmakers from both parties have demanded the administration hold Russia accountable if there is evidence that the bounty offers occurred.
Trump has publicly shrugged off allegations in reports about the bounties and has yet to demand an investigation or threaten Russia with any consequences if the allegations are confirmed. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that the “Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party.”
In a book officially released last week, Bolton wrote that Trump asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a dinner in 2018 to prioritize purchases of American agricultural products in order to boost his chances to get re-elected in November. The president and his Cabinet members have denied those allegations.
In his book, Bolton faults congressional Democrats for what he calls “impeachment malpractice,” in part for failing to look into Trump‘s actions concerning Halkbank, the state-owned Turkish bank that now faces an indictment on charges of fraud, money laundering and violating U.S. sanctions against Iran in the Southern District of New York.
Bolton alleged that Trump went out of his way to try to accommodate Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s request to avoid charges against Halkbank. The Turkish leader who was desperate to get the charges lifted because a trial might drive away business and shed light on allegedly dubious financial dealings between the bank and Erdogan’s government.
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