In an interview broadcast on Sunday, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that President Donald Trump “picks” his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “over our troops,” The Hill reported.
Rice told NBC that she believes Trump was briefed on the allegations that Russia is offering bounties to Islamist militants for killing American troops stationed in Afghanistan.
“The message to Vladimir Putin is you can kill American servicemen and women with absolute impunity,” Rice, who served as former President Obama’s national security adviser, said. “This is an extraordinary revelation.”
“The president of the United States has demonstrated absolutely callous disregard for the safety and security of American forces in a war zone and there’s no explanation for this,” Rice argued.
“Now we learn that even when it comes to the blood of American service members, this president picks Putin over our troops.”
Last week, citing individuals briefed on the matter, The New York Times reported that Russia paid Taliban-linked militants to kill American soldiers. According to officials familiar with the situation, Trump and the White House were briefed on the intelligence, but ultimately decided not to take action.
It remains unclear who in the Russian government authorized the alleged operation and what its goals are, but U.S. officials told the NYT that Russia may be trying to undermine NATO or derail the peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan.
Rice also alleged that “everything [Trump] has done since” since 2016 — when he first denied the findings of the U.S. intelligence community pertaining to election interference — has helped Russia.
The former UN ambassador noted that Trump backed Putin’s allegations at the Helsinki Summit, advocated for Russia to rejoin the Group of Seven and withdrew American troops from Germany.
The White House has denied that Trump was briefed on the alleged situation in Afghanistan, but prominent Democrats have nevertheless criticized the commander-in-chief.
In a joint statement released last week, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the president of being “soft” on the Kremlin.
In an interview, Pelosi suggested that Russia has dirt on Trump.
“I don’t know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally, or financially,” the top Democrat said.
Republicans have criticized the president as well. In an advertisement, conservative super PAC The Lincoln Project accused the commander-in-chief of betraying American soldiers. Released last week, the ad said that Trump stands by the troops, “just not our troops.”