Joe Biden said Tuesday that President Donald Trump has a “lot to answer for” amid reports that he was advised as early as March 2019 of intelligence that suggested Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans.
“It’s an absolute dereliction of duty if any of this is even remotely true,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, after giving a speech excoriating Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden stopped short of saying Trump had violated his oath of office or should face any consequences from Congress, which has already impeached and tried him on charges related to his handling of foreign affairs. But, Biden, said, “if these allegations are true and he did nothing about any of this, then in fact I think the public should, unrelated to my running, conclude that this man is unfit to be president of the United States of America.”
The Associated Press has reported that at least one of Trump’s daily intelligence briefings included evidence of Russian bounties. Trump has insisted that he was never briefed on such details because they weren’t credible.
Biden said Tuesday that he has not had a classified briefing on the material or on Trump’s handling of it, but he said he may request one soon. Major party nominees receive daily intelligence briefings, but Biden is not yet the official nominee, and he noted that he no longer has access to the same classified information that he could regularly review during his two terms as vice president.
Alluding to that experience, Biden said Trump “at a minimum” should have called the Joint Chiefs of Staff together with other national security leaders and pushed to reconcile any discrepancies in the intelligence and draw a firm conclusion. And he said, were he president, he would call Russian President Vladimir Putin and say, “Vladimir, old buddy, if any of this is true … you’ve got a big problem."
Biden has, throughout the campaign, hammered Trump for “cozying up” to Putin and other autocratic leaders across the globe, and Biden warned as recently as Monday that Putin’s long-term goal is to destabilize NATO and Western alliances that have been in place since World War II. He has said repeatedly that if Trump is reelected, NATO will cease to exist in any meaningful form.
The Q&A with reporters and the speech that preceded it was an opportunity for Biden to draw sharp contrasts with Trump on topics including foreign policy, the pandemic and cognitive ability.
Biden noted that Trump's explanation of not knowing about intelligence on Russia was evidence of a president who “doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware of what’s going on.” Trump, 74, and his allies have repeatedly pushed the narrative that Biden, 77, is mentally unfit for the presidency.
“I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against,” Biden said.
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