The White House has come under widespread criticism amid near-daily developments regarding the alleged Russian bounty scheme. The New York Times on Friday described U.S. intelligence that found members of a Russian military intelligence unit had offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants in exchange for successful attacks on U.S. and other coalition forces in Afghanistan.
According to subsequent media reports, President Donald Trump was briefed on the bounties this spring and as early as February of last year in his presidential daily brief, but the White House had not authorized any response to the operation.
Trump and his aides have repeatedly denied that the president was ever briefed on the potential bounties, which are believed to have resulted in at least one U.S. combat death, and the White House has insisted that intelligence on the plot was inconclusive, though the intelligence was reportedly shared with British officials in recent weeks.
Biden on Tuesday rejected that explanation and suggested the president should have been briefed on the allegations regardless of whether the intelligence community had finished evaluating their veracity.
“The idea that somehow he didn’t know, or isn’t being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty, if that’s the case,” Biden said. “And if he was briefed and nothing was done about this, that’s a dereliction of duty.”
The former vice president pointed to his wife, Jill, who he said was “outraged” over the thought of his late son Beau, who was an Army officer, being stationed in Afghanistan with a Russian bounty on his head.
“It’s an absolute dereliction of duty if any of this is even remotely true,” he added.
Biden noted that he’s been in contact with his team of “dozens” of foreign policy and national security advisers as the Russian bounty story has evolved. But, “if it doesn’t get cleared up quickly, then I will seek and ask if I can be briefed.”
Ahead of the 2016 election, Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received their first classified briefings of the campaign in August, according to The Washington Post.