“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 AP reports.
“The assessment was included in at least one of President Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.”
“The revelations cast new doubt on the White House’s efforts to distance Trump from the Russian intelligence assessments.”
The New York Times confirms Trump also received a written briefing on the bounties in late February.
New York Times: “American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, which was among the evidence that supported their conclusion that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.”
“Though the United States has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before, analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program that detainees described during interrogations.”
“Leaders on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees said Monday that they want answers from the Pentagon and White House about reports that a Russian military intelligence group had paid bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan,” Stars and Stripes reports. Said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX): “We need to get to the bottom of it and we need to do it now. Again, this week before Congress leaves on the Fourth of July.”
“I find it inexplicable in light of these public allegations that the President of the United States hasn’t come before the country and assured people that he’ll get to the bottom of whether Russians are putting bounties on the heads of troops, and he’ll do everything in his power to protect US troops.” — House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), at a press conference.
The Atlantic: “The United States is once again at risk of outstripping its COVID-19 testing capacity, an ominous development that would deny the country a crucial tool to understand its pandemic in real time.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci issued a dire warning at a Senate hearing Tuesday about the rate of the coronavirus pandemic’s spread amid a spike in new cases, noting that new cases may reach 100,000 per day if the United States continues on its current trajectory, the Washington Post reports.
Said Fauci: “I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it is going to be very disturbing. I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they’re doing well, they are vulnerable.”
An Associated Press analysis of coronavirus case data “shows the virus has moved — and is spreading quickly — into Republican areas, a new path with broad potential political ramifications.”
“States that President Trump won in the 2016 election account for about 75% of the new cases, a trend that has accelerated since the end of May. Counties that voted for Trump in 2016 have seen cases and deaths rising — now seeing an impact nearly even with counties that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned Democrats not to mess with the filibuster rule if they win control of the chamber in November, The Hill reports.
Said McConnell: “The important thing for our Democratic friends to remember is that you may not be in total control in the future, and anytime you start fiddling around with the rules of the Senate, I think you always need to put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes and just imagine what might happen when the wind shifts.”
Shut it Moscow Mitch.
“President Trump set off a ‘five-alarm fire’ in the White House on Sunday morning after he retweeted a video of one of his supporters saying ‘white power,’” NBC News reports.
“The video remained on the president’s Twitter page, where he has 82 million followers, for more than three hours because White House officials couldn’t reach him to ask him to delete it, the two officials said. The president was at his golf club in Virginia and had put his phone down.”
“House Democrats came out of a closed-door White House briefing Tuesday taking swings at President Trump’s response to reports that Russia paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan to target and kill U.S. troops,” CNBC reports.
Said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD): “The president called this a hoax publicly. Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax.”
A judge granted Robert Trump a temporary restraining order halting the publication of Mary Trump’s upcoming tell-all, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, the Daily Beast reports.
This decision is only preliminary, leaving the book’s ultimate fate up to a later decision on the merits of the lawsuit.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called on President Trump to “occasionally wear a mask,” ABC News reports. Said Alexander: “The president has plenty of admirers. They would follow his lead. It would help end this political debate.”
Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy implored President Trump to wear a mask in public to model best practices for Americans. Said Doocy: “I think that if the president wore one, it would just set a good example. He’d be a good role model. I don’t see any downside to the president wearing a mask in public.”
Washington Post: “The president has refused to trumpet his own administration’s recommendation that people cover their faces, nor has he set an example by wearing a mask at public events. In fact, he has used his bully pulpit to mock others who do and to cast doubt on the efficacy of masks.”
“But with coronavirus cases soaring across the nation — and most precipitously across Florida, Texas and other parts of so-called Trump country — many prominent Republicans are now echoing the pleas of infectious-diseases expert Anthony S. Fauci and other health experts that people wear masks to slow the spread of the virus and help the economy reopen safely.”
“The recent shift on the political right has left Trump isolated, with the president and his White House staff openly resisting the calls for mask-wearing.”
The Senate will incorporate the annual intelligence policy legislation into the National Defense Authorization Act — but only after Republicans stripped language from the intelligence bill that would have required presidential campaigns to report offers of foreign election help, CNNreports.
Sen. Mark Warner bemoaned what he called a “back-room deal” to strip out the provision.
“The European Union will open its borders to visitors from 15 countries as of Wednesday, but not to travelers from the United States, Brazil or Russia, putting into effect a complex policy that has sought to balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy and the desperate need for tourism revenue,” the New York Times reports.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that visitors from eight additional states will be required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to New York, bringing the total number of states subject to the restriction to 16, Axios reports.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told reporters that the state will not reinstate restrictions or close businesses to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, Axios reports.
Said DeSantis: “We’re not going back, closing things. I don’t think that that’s really what’s driving it, people going to a business is not what’s driving it. I think when you see the younger folks, I think a lot of it is more just social interactions, so that’s natural.”
“Large swaths of the U.S. economy again are having to shut down in an attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic, threatening to reverse the economic progress of the past month and worsen the recession,” Axiosreports.
“It’s not just a few states. The virus is spreading so rapidly in the U.S. that Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said Monday this was ‘really the beginning’ of a surge in new cases.”
Said Schuchat: “I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, ‘Hey, it’s summer. Everything’s going to be fine. We’re over this.’ And we are not even beginning to be over this.”
“As the Supreme Court hands his administration successive defeats at the same time his political standing craters, President Trump has begun to raise both publicly and privately the potential boon another nomination to the panel this year might provide,” CNN reports.