Although President Trump apparently took no action in response to a reported February 27 intel brief about Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan, he took several provocative swipes at favorite target CNN – and met with Diamond and Silk that day.
Trump also met with ‘Superman’ actor Dean Cain ‘and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ actress Kristy Swanson about their brief play ‘FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers’ – which is based on texts by favorite Trump targets Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
The presidential face time with tangential figures came as the coronavirus was raging across the globe – and as information about the deadly bounties was being included in a top secret document that goes to the president and top officials in the U.S. government, according to a bombshell report.
The president’s public events and statements that day were typical in many ways for his presidency – with public blasts at perceived critics and a White House event that featured praise for the president.
The New York Times reported that Trump was briefed that a Russian military unit paid bounties to elements linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan for the deaths of U.S. troops.
A source even gave the specific date information was included in the President’s Daily Brief: February 27. Two officials said the information was included in the president’s daily brief.
US President Donald Trump speaks as social media personalities Lynnette Hardaway (L) and Rochelle Richardson (2-L), otherwise known as Diamond and Silk listen during a meeting with African-American leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 27, 2020. That same day, the New York Times reports, Trump was briefed in the afternoon about U.S. intelligence that a Russian military unit paid bounties to Taliban-linked elements who killed American troops
The White House disputes Trump was briefed and said the intelligence was still being vetted. It briefed Republican lawmakers on the situation Monday.
On that same day, Trump met with Diamond and Silk, two outspoken endorsers who have fired up his campaign rallies, at a Black History Month event at the White House.
At the event, Rochelle Richardson (Silk) told Trump the nation needed someone who would go ‘toe to toe against the status quo,’ while touting their forthcoming book.
‘Mr. President, we’ve come a long ways. A long ways at wining, wining, and winning. And you know what? They sing the song “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired,” but I haven’t got tired of winning,’ she said.
President Donald Trump (R) listens as Lynette ‘Diamond’ Hardaway (L) and Rochelle ‘Silk’ Richardson praise him during a news conference and meeting with African American supporters in the Cabinet Room at the White House February 27, 2020
The briefing is the latest incident on Trump’s relationship with Russia
Trump approvingly tweeted then-Fox host Tirsh Regan
Trump blasted CNN on the evening of Feb. 27
He quoted Regan saying CNN was ‘infected’ with ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’
The president said his team was doing ‘such a fine job’ dealing with the coronavirus
U.S. service members walk off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost on September 11, 2017 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Trump held her hand and accepted the accolades.
‘So nice!’ Trump wrote, retweeted a video clip of the event.
Trump also made time that day inside the office for actors Cain and Swanson. The pair were in town for the annual CPAC conference, where they got standing ovations when they gave dramatic readings of texts between Strzok and Page, who Trump regularly derides as the ‘FBI lovers.’ The Russia probe lawyers were revealed during the Mueller investigation to have been having an affair.
It was only later revealed that a guest at the CPAC conference tested positive for the coronavirus – requiring quarantines of some officials who were there.
At CPAC, Ann McElhinney, one of the producers, told the crowd to laughter that Trump ‘loves the play.’
Cain then said: ‘He said he’d be my understudy.’
But Trump was in a sour mood online that day. He blasted CNN that day as an ‘anti-Trump network’ by quoting former Fox News personality Trish Regan, who was fiercely defending his handling of the coronavirus from criticism.
“Anti-Trump Network @CNN doing whatever it can to stoke a national Coronavirus panic. The far left Network pretty much ignoring anyone who they interview who doesn’t blame President Trump.” @trish_regan @FoxNews.’
‘Media refuses to discuss the great job our professionals are doing!’ Trump wrote before 9 pm, Mediaite noted.
Later, he wrote: ‘Congratulations and thank you to our great Vice President & all of the many professionals doing such a fine job at CDC & all other agencies on the Coronavirus situation. Only a very small number in U.S., & China numbers look to be going down. All countries working well together!’
Trump’s daily schedule showed an intelligence briefing at 2:30 pm that day.
Earlier in the afternoon, Trump announced his nomination of GOP loyalist then-Rep. John Ratcliffe to serve as his Director of Intelligence. Ratliff issued a statement Monday noting it is a crime to leak classified information.
‘The selective leaking of any classified information disrupts the vital interagency work to collect, assess, and mitigate threats and places our forces at risk. It also, simply put, a crime,’ he said.
Trump tweeted February 27: ‘I am pleased to announce the nomination of @RepRatcliffe (Congressman John Ratcliffe) to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Would have completed process earlier, but John wanted to wait until after IG Report was finished. John is an outstanding man of great talent!’
On Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blasted the Times for publishing the intelligence information, which she said was had not been fully verified.
‘These are rogue intelligence officers who are imperiling our troops lives. We will not be able to get – very likely not be able to get – a consensus on this intelligence, because of what was leaked to the New York Times,’ she said.
‘The President was never briefed on this, this intelligence still has not been verified, and there is no consensus among the intelligence community,’ McEnany ssaid.
Trump rival Joe Biden blasted the president for either not acting on the information or not reading what was reportedly included in his highly classified briefing materials. Biden said he read the briefing every day when he served as vice president.
Trump on Tuesday embraced a claim that an intelligence report indicating Russia offered bounties on U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan was ‘wishful thinking’ as the families of Marines who died in a car bomb attack demanded justice.
The president retweeted two tweets from Geraldo Rivera on the matter as the White House struggled to deal with the fallout from The New York Times’ explosive report on the bounties, trying to down play its significance and saying Trump was never briefed on it.
‘After enjoying big splash from sensational #RussianBounty expose, #NYT retreating to shore-admitting ‘the underlying intelligence was conflicting.’ In 3 years of @realDonaldTrump all NYT/Russia reporting has been based on ‘conflicting’ intelligence – Also known as wishful thinking,’ was one of Rivera’s tweets that Trump touted.
‘Here’s #RussianBounty story in a nutshell: 1-US raid randomly discovers wad of cash in Afghan hut (How much? In a safe? Under a bed? In Capone’s vault?) 2-Clever intell op exclaims, ‘Say I think this cash came from Moscow!’ 3-During daily briefing @realDonaldTrump is told or not,’ was the other.
President Trump’s defense comes as the families of three Marines killed in a car bomb attack in April 2019 demanded justice. U.S. officials are looking at that April attack as one that could have been a result of Russian bounties.
Felicia Arculeo, whose son Cpl. Robert Hendriks, 25, died in the April 8, 2019, attack, told CNBC that she wants an investigation into how her son died and ‘that the parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible.’
Hendriks and the other two Marines, Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, were killed when a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armored vehicles as they returned to Bagram Airfield days before they were scheduled to return home from Afghanistan.
Hendriks’ father told the Associated Press that even a rumor of Russian bounties should be immediately addressed.