Trump responds to ‘Bounty Gate’ with the Sergeant Schultz defense: ‘I know nothing!’


Donald Trump, when he is in trouble, routinely defends with “I barely knew the guy” … “I never met him” … “I don’t know anything about it” … or just last weekend, “I’m not involved” with the firing of Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman, that was “all up to the attorney general.” Trump’s statement came minutes after Attorney General William Barr told Berman in a letter that Trump had fired him at Barr’s request.

What Trump does when he is in trouble is what I have dubbed the Sergeant Schultz defense for juries: “I know nothing!

Following The New York Times reporting this weekend, confirmed by sources to several other news organizations, that Russia has put a bounty on the head of American soldiers in Afghanistan, Trump was briefed on it, and has done nothing about it, Trump went to his go-to defense. Trump Denies Knowing About Russian Bounties for Dead U.S. Troops:

On Friday, the New York Times reported that, according to U.S. intelligence officials, a Russian spy unit secretly offered bounties last year to Taliban-linked militants for the killing of U.S. coalition forces in Afghanistan, including American troops. Per the officials, President Trump was briefed on the intelligence and the U.S. developed a range of possible responses to the significant Russian escalation, including diplomatic efforts and new sanctions, but the White House has not authorized any of them. (The officials didn’t offer any explanation as to why.) On Sunday morning, following outcry over the lack of action to protect U.S. servicemembers, President Trump claimed he hadn’t been told about the Russian operation, and suggested the reported intelligence was “fake news.”

“Nobody briefed or told me, [Vice-President Mike Pence], or Chief of Staff [Mark Meadows] about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians,” Trump wrote on Twitter, “Everybody is denying it & and there have not been many attacks on us.”

But on Sunday, the New York Times reported that intelligence officers and special operations forces in Afghanistan informed superiors in January about the payoffs, and that their reports were briefed to “the highest levels of the White House.” One official stated that the information was included in the President’s Daily Brief, an intelligence rundown that Trump has been known for years to ignore. The National Security Council also discussed the intelligence during an interagency meeting at the White House in March, but the Trump administration did not brief U.S. allies about it until this week.

Intelligence officials believe that militants did collect some of the bounty money after completing successful operations against coalition forces, but it’s not yet clear if any of the deaths of the 20 American servicemembers who were killed in combat in Afghanistan last year are linked to the Russian operation. The Washington Post also reported that “it was not immediately clear whether the militants approached by Russia as part of the initiative had succeeded in killing Americans or allied forces.”

The president, of course, has notoriously dismissed the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community regarding Russia in the past. According to the Post, the alleged Russian operation “has generated an intense debate within the Trump administration about how best to respond to a troubling new tactic” in light of Trump’s ongoing stance toward the country. According to Trump, he has somehow not been allowed in that loop.

The only possible explanations here are:

  1. Trump is simply lying (a very high degree of probability).
  2. Trump was briefed on the intelligence, and chose not to act on it because of his obeisance to Vladimir Putin (also a very high degree of probability).
  3. Trump was briefed on the intelligence in a Presidential Daily Briefing (PBD), but Trump did not read it because it did not include glossy pictures and praise for him. Donald Trump gets a daily briefing all about how great he is.
  4. Or the most disturbing possible explanation, the Intelligence Community is cutting the president out of the intelligence loop because he cannot be trusted to disclose highly classified information to his pal Vladimir Putin in their telephone chats, because he has done this before. Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.

Whatever the explanation, Donald Trump represents a national security threat to the United States. He is putting American lives at risk for his obeisance to Vladimir Putin and his unquestioning support for Russian interests.

The appropriate response to this reporting over the weekend is to treat it with the highest degree of seriousness and to promise to get to the bottom of it, and to reassure the American public.

Asserting the Sergeant Schultz defense, “I know nothing!,” and calling it “fake news” is in no way an appropriate response. There is something seriously wrong in the head with this man. He is a danger to the American people.