Biden accuses Trump of ‘dereliction of duty' over Russia bounty reports in first press briefing in nearly 3 months
2020 presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden urges President Trump to adopt his coronavirus response plan for the upcoming months during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pulled no punches when going after President Trump on Tuesday during his first press conference in 89 days.
While Biden’s press conference in Delaware was ostensibly about how he would respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the former vice president slammed the current White House occupant for his response to reports that Russian intelligence operatives offered to pay bounties to Taliban-linked militants who killed U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Trump on Sunday denied that he had been briefed about the matter before the New York Times reported on it over the weekend.
“The idea that somehow he didn’t know is a dereliction of duty if that’s the case,” Biden said while taking questions from reporters. “And if he was briefed and he didn’t do anything about it that is a dereliction of duty.”
News that Moscow allegedly offered bounties to Afghan militants who killed U.S. soldiers was first reported over the weekend in the New York Times.
The Washington Post further reported that the Russian bounties are "believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members." And The Associated Press reported that officials said an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three Marines in Afghanistan is under investigation.
Trump on Sunday denied that he and Vice President Mike Pence had been briefed on the matter – saying in a late-night tweet that U.S. intelligence services “did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me.”
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues at the time that he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
The White House didn't respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump wasn't — and still hasn't been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they haven't been fully verified. However, it's rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.
Biden on Tuesday said it was unimaginable that Trump would not have known about the intelligence, and called into question the president’s cognitive abilities.
"The president talks about cognitive capability, but he is not cognitively aware of what’s going on,” Biden said, reversing a hit the president has used against him.
Biden also called on Congress to investigate the matter and, come Election Day, “for the public to decide whether he is fit for office.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.