Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, suggested in an MSNBC interview with Andrea Mitchell Thursday that the media overreacted to a recent report that Russian officials placed bounties on the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Colin Powell politely tells MSNBC that they (& many others) botched the Russian Bounty story w/ "hysterical" coverage. "Our military commanders did not think that it was as serious a problem as the newspapers were reporting & television was reporting… It got almost hysterical." pic.twitter.com/fue42WlWbv
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) July 10, 2020
“Our military commanders on the ground did not think that it was as serious a problem as the newspapers were reporting and television was reporting. It got kind of out of control before we really had an understanding of what had happened. I’m not sure we fully understand now,” Powell said.
“Remember it’s not the intelligence community that’s going to go fight these guys, it’s the guys on the ground” Powell added, “It’s our troops. It’s our commanders who are going to go deal with this kind of a threat using intelligence that was given to them by the intelligence community.”
Powell explained that intelligence information must be analyzed and verified before acting on it. “I think we were on top of that” however, “it got almost hysterical in the first few days.”
Powell said even Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, “indicated that he did not think that this was of that level of importance to us.”
On Tuesday, McKenzie expressed doubts that the bounty program actually led to the deaths of any U.S. soldiers. “The intel case wasn’t proved to me- it wasn’t proved enough that I’d take it to a court of law- and you know that’s often true in battlefield intelligence,” he said.
When the story broke, Democrats and mainstream media quickly jumped on it hoping it would add to their Russia-Trump narrative and undermine the president’s credibility with US troops and their families. The New York Times ran a story featuring a heartbroken Trump-supporting grieving father who was now angry at the president for the death of his son.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “our Armed Forces would be better served if President Trump spent more time reading his daily briefing and less time planning military parades and defending relics of the Confederacy.”
The New York Times ran headlines like, “Bounties Uproar Cast a Shadow Over A Rare Trump Foreign Policy Achievement.” However, Powell’s comments may pour cold water on a story Democrats and the media hoped to turn into a scandal. Powell’s comments carry credibility as an unabashed critic of President Trump.
Trump has repeatedly denied reports that he was briefed on intelligence about the bounties, but did nothing about them writing in a Tweet, “The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party”.
Meanwhile, as the media blasted Trump for taking no action against Russia, Mollie Hemingway and Sean Davis broke news at The Federalist that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was briefed on the intelligence during a congressional delegation to Afghanistan in February but took no action in response to the briefing.
When asked if he had any knowledge of the Russia story prior to the New York Times report, Schiff said “I can’t comment on specifics.”