Following a briefing on Russia’s payment for bounties on U.S. troops, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put out a succinct statement, ending with this: "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.” That statement and Pelosi’s remarks in her weekly news conference appear to confirm news reports that the matter was included in Trump’s daily briefing (which the White House has denied).

At her news conference on the day before the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Pelosi all but declared Trump AWOL from his post as commander in chief. Careful not to tie her remarks to the Gang of Eight briefing, she asserted, “Of course, the president should have been briefed. This is of the highest priority. Force protection, a threat to our men and women in uniform.” She continued, “It was in his PDB, presidential daily brief, but it wasn’t verbally [relayed],” adding: “That doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t have read that.”

Pelosi has been part of intelligence briefings as a member of the Gang of Eight and before that on the House Intelligence Committee for decades. She was, therefore, well-equipped to call out Trump’s latest excuse for not having acted on intelligence or been (orally) briefed: "You got the con. The White House put on a con that if you don’t have 100 percent consensus on intelligence, it shouldn’t rise to a certain level,” she told reporters. That, however, is just poppycock. She correctly pointed out that if you needed to have 100 percent certainty before alerting the president to a threat to the troops, you would never look into anything.

She is right, of course. We have seen a familiar pattern of deflection and misdirection on this scandal. First, Trump was not “briefed.” (Well, he was briefed through the PDB.) But it was a hoax. (Then why was it in the PDB?) The upshot is that Trump, to this day, has taken no action in defense of our troops. At a time when the Kremlin was placing bounties on the heads of our servicemen and women, he was calling for Russia to be let into the Group of Seven.

Pelosi reiterated her observation that “all roads lead to Putin” and then did what Trump has not — called for a muscular response to Russian aggression. “When Congress in a bipartisan way passed sanctions on Russia, the administration told us to take out the sanctions on the [Russian military intelligence agency, the] GRU — the intelligence, as well as the defense, sectors of Russia,” she recollected. “Those should definitely still be there. They were there in a bipartisan way. It’s just administration wanted them out. I don’t know why. So we should have those in there."

Frankly, no one outside the Trump cult could reasonably believe the president’s advisers and the president himself were intent on prioritizing the defense of U.S. troops. Trump has made perfectly clear that he wants a chummy relationship with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Is it any wonder that his advisers slipped intelligence of the bounties into the PDB (which they surely know Trump does not read) and that no actions were taken? The Kremlin — not to mention the rest of the world — knows a foe of the United States can target our troops without adverse consequence. If that is not dereliction of duty for the commander in chief, I don’t know what is.

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