Trump in trouble over Russian bounty scandal, retweet of racist video

This article is more than 12 months old

US President rocked by report on his alleged inaction over bounty on US soldiers and retweeting of video with 'white power' chant

WASHINGTON: The already rocky road to the November election just got a little rockier for US President Donald Trump.

With approval ratings plummeting over his poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, the last thing he needs is another bump in the road.

Unfortunately for Mr Trump, he got not one but two.

The first is whether he knew but did nothing about a report alleging that the Russians offered the Taleban a bounty for every US soldier they kill in Afghanistan.

The second - Mr Trump posted a video of a supporter at a rally shouting "white power". The tweet was subsequently deleted.

Mr Trump denied that he knew about the report on the Russians and called it on Sunday "probably just another phony Times hit job".

The New York Times ran the story on the report on Friday.

The US director of national intelligence on Saturday denied the report. Russia's Foreign Ministry and the Taleban also dismissed it.

On Sunday, the newspaper published an additional report saying US intelligence and special operations forces in Afghanistan alerted superiors as early as January to the suspected Russian plot.

The Washington Post reported earlier on Sunday that the bounties are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several US service members in Afghanistan, citing intelligence gleaned from interrogations of captured militants.

Mr Trump said late on Sunday the intelligence community told him they did not find media reports suggesting Russian units in Afghanistan offered to pay the Taleban to kill US soldiers credible.

Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday: "Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP (Vice President Mike Pence)".

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi cited the New York Times report and said on ABC News: "There is something very wrong here. But this must have an answer".

Ms Pelosi and House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff also questioned why, if Mr Trump's claims were true, he was not told about the bounty offer.

"If he was briefed and still wanted Russia back in the G-8, it's even worse," Mr Schiff tweeted.

The second bump for Mr Trump happened when he shared a video of a stand-off between anti-Trump protesters and his supporters in which a man chants "white power".

Mr Trump tweeted the video shortly after 7.30am. By 11am, it had been removed.

The White House said he had not heard the "white power" chant before sharing the footage.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted a few hours later: "Today the President shared a video of people shouting 'white power' and said they were 'great'... We're in a battle for the soul of the nation - and the President has picked a side. But make no mistake: it's a battle we will win."

The Republican Party's only black senator, Mr Tim Scott, called the video "offensive" in a CNN interview.

"I think it is indefensible. We should take it down. That is what I think." - REUTERS, AFP