Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer, accused President Trump of “treason” on Wednesday over reports that Russia paid bounties to Afghan fighters to kill American soldiers and the White House took no action in response.
Moulton, a former platoon commander in Iraq, said if he led his Marines into an ambush because he failed to read an intelligence report he would be in prison. The Massachusetts Democrat questioned why the commander-in-chief is not held to the same standard.
“If this is not treason then I don’t know what is,” Moulton said Wednesday on a House Democratic Caucus call with reporters.
“If I led my Marines into an ambush because I didn’t bother to read the intelligence report I was given that said we would get ambushed there, I wouldn’t be tweeting that it wasn’t my fault because I didn’t read the report, I would be in prison,” Moulton said.
FILE – In this Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 file photo, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., speaks at the Brookings Institution in Washington, about his vision for the future of U.S. foreign policy. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
The comments from Moulton, who had a shortlived 2020 presidential run, come as Democrats have ramped up the rhetoric against Trump over the Russian bounty reports and have demanded more answers from the White House about the intelligence assessment, first reported by the New York Times, that a Russia military unit paid bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The White House has pushed back hard on the reporting, saying Trump was not aware of the bounty program and intelligence officials didn’t tell him because there was no consensus within the intel community on the alleged plot. Trump dismissed the reporting as a “hoax.”
“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party,” Trump tweeted.
The New York Times reported that the information about the bounty program was provided to Trump in his daily written brief in late February. The intelligence was taken seriously enough that it prompted an interagency meeting of the National Security Council in late March and U.S. officials shared the information with the British government, whose forces were also believed to have been targeted by the Russian bounties, the Times reported.
It has been reported, however, that Trump does not read the detailed presidential brief regularly, and is more often briefed on intelligence issues verbally.
Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told “Fox and Friends” Wednesday that the CIA officer who briefs the president decided not to tell the commander-in-chief that Russia was allegedly paying bounties to kill U.S. troops.
“The intelligence community does not have a consensus. And as a result, the president’s career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence,” O’Brien said. “And, by the way, she is an outstanding officer and knowing all the facts I know, I certainly support her decision.”
Trump’s 2020 Democratic challenger Joe Biden argued the president failed in his duties whether he knew or didn’t know of the bounty intelligence.
“The idea that somehow he didn’t know is a dereliction of duty if that’s the case,” the former vice president said Tuesday in his first press conference in nearly three months. “And if he was briefed and he didn’t do anything about it that is a dereliction of duty.”
Moulton’s comments, however, went much further as he essentially accused Trump of being responsible for the deaths of U.S. service members in Afghanistan. The New York Times said investigators are reviewing at least two deadly attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan for suspected links to the bounties. One is an April 2019 bombing outside Bagram Air Base that killed three Marines — Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43; Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25; and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31. The second attack was not identified.
Moulton made a direct link to the Russian bounty intelligence and American troops dying, whereas other Democratic colleagues on the Wednesday call — Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J. — did not make that connection.
“American kids are dead because Trump is more concerned about his political liability with Russia than the lives of American troops,” Moulton claimed. “He owes a phone call to the parents of each of those great Americans, like those Marines, half his age, who were killed by our enemy when he had this intelligence yet failed to act to save their lives.”
“And on that phone call, he better not act like a traitor to our flag who blames someone else for his dereliction,” Moulton continued. “Rather he should explain to those moms and dads that their sons would be alive today if he had taken an ounce of the responsibility expected of a second lieutenant as commander in chief.”
Fox News’ Julia Musto and Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.