Former national security adviser Susan E. Rice on Sunday accused President Trump of doing “our archenemy’s bidding” by inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Group of Seven amid a debate over intelligence that suggests Moscow offered bounties to Taliban fighters willing to target U.S. soldiers.
Ms. Rice, who served as President Obama’s national security adviser from 2013 to 2017, also said the president is surrounded by “sycophants and weaklings” who are too timid to give him the full picture on Russia.
“We still, I want to remind you, have credible intelligence that the Russians are trying to kill U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan,” she told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This is not the time to be handing Putin an olive branch. This is the time to be working up options to punish him. And yet, that’s not what happened.”
Leaders on Capitol Hill are receiving classified intelligence hearings on the alleged bounty payments, which was first reported in The New York Times.
Some reports say the administration was aware of the intelligence as early as 2019 and put it in a president’s daily brief earlier this year. But the White House says the president was never informed about the issue because intelligence officials hadn’t reached a consensus on the information.
Mr. Trump went a step further on Twitter, calling the story a “hoax” designed to hurt him and the GOP in an election year.
Ms. Rice, perhaps best known in conservative circles for her telling numerous talk shows the week after the fatal Benghazi attack that it was a spontaneous development unrelated to terrorism, said she doesn’t “buy this story that he was never briefed.”
“I believe that over a year ago when the information first came to light in 2019, that my successor, John Bolton, would have walked straight into the Oval Office, as I would have, and informed the president of this intelligence. You don’t wait until you have 100% certainty,” Ms. Rice said.
Mr. Bolton, who is doing media interviews to promote a tell-all book about working for Mr. Trump, declined to discuss what he knew about the situation in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“I’ve said in countless other interviews, I’m not going to disclose classified information. I’ve got the struggle with the president trying to repress my book on that score already,” he said. “I will say this. All intelligence is distributed along the spectrum of uncertainty. And this intelligence in 2020, by the administration’s own admission, was deemed credible enough to give to our allies. So the notion that you only give the really completely 100% verified intelligence to the president would mean you give him almost nothing.”
Ms. Rice slammed the president’s decision-making amid rumors that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, is vetting her as a potential running mate this November.
She is reportedly being considered alongside Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala D. Harris, and Tammy Duckworth, as well as Rep. Val Demmings.
Last month, Ms. Rice said in an interview that she would “certainly say yes” if asked to be Mr. Biden’s running mate.
Speaking to NBC, she said she just wants to help Democrats.
“I am going to do everything I can to help get Joe Biden elected and help him succeed as president,” Ms. Rice told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Whether I’m his running mate or a door-knocker, I don’t mind. I just want to get Joe Biden elected and see the Democrats control the Senate and retain the House.”
⦁ Lauren Meier contributed to this report.