EDITORIAL: Americans deserve the truth on Russian bounties on our troops

Mike Christopherson
Mike Christopherson

The New York Times, citing multiple unnamed sources, reported Friday that Russia last year offered bounties to Taliban-affiliated militants in Afghanistan to kill American troops who were battling the Taliban, but at the time were in discussions to end the fighting. The Times went on to report that President Trump and his inner circle were briefed on the matter several months ago, and throughout the weekend more details emerged, and many Democrats and some Republicans in Congress demanded answers from the White House. Monday and into Tuesday came reports that the allegations were included in a written brief for the president in late February and were discussed in early March.

On Sunday, Trump denied the allegations in the story, saying he’d never been briefed on the matter. So did Russia, and so did the Taliban. But it’s not like any of them are going to admit it. In reaction to Trump’s denial, some with previous high-level intelligence experience said Sunday it would be impossible for any president to not be briefed on such an important matter.

You know, we can say that the United States of America at this moment in time is more polarized and divided than maybe ever before, excluding, possibly, the Civil War era. We can say our country is full of hate. The election of Trump as president, on the heels of electing our nation's first African-American president to two terms, has taken that hate and fear and ignorance and disdain for facts and the truth from the shadows to right out in the open. It's blatant and impossible to miss. The election of Trump has made this climate possible; it's our new reality:Trumpism.

But we can all support the troops fighting to protect our nation and its freedoms, can't we? We can all rally around our veterans, right? Of course we can. We already do.

Which is why this story about Russia and the Taliban and militants and bounties to kill American soldiers needs to remain on the forefront until the whole truth and nothing but the truth is reported. The bounties are bad enough; the deafening silence from the White House is no less troubling. This can't be shoved to the curbside in the next 24-hour news cycle or relegated to old news by the president's latest attempt to distract via his most powerful weapon, Twitter. (Trump predictably on Sunday did just that, retweeting before heading to the golf course a video from Florida that included a man yelling “white power!” while driving a golf cart during a clash between Trump supporters and detractors.)

Trump loves to rip into our nation's allies and their leaders...nations and leaders that wish to do us no harm and only want to collaborate for the better good. He loves to ridicule them while pounding his chest and going on and on about American exceptionalism. But when it comes to being critical of nations and their leaders who look at the United States as an adversary to be bested at every opportunity, when Trump looks at their oligarch leaders, for him, it's like looking in a mirror and he loves what he sees, so he says and does little out of fear of rocking the boat.

The Times didn’t make this story up. It’s not conjured out of thin air. It’s not the latest entry from some deep-state conspiracy.

As stories like these continue to pile up, the bigger questions demand to be answered. Like, for instance, what does Putin have on Trump? What does China’s president, Xi Jinping, have on Trump? Americans deserve to know.