Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden rebuked President Trump on Tuesday over reports that sensitive intelligence about a Russian spy agency offering bounties to Afghan militants to kill U.S. and coalition forces was included in the president’s briefing material months ago.
Though he said the story is still developing, Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, that “it’s an absolute dereliction of duty if any of this is even remotely true,” adding, “I think the president has a lot to answer for, and we should get the answers quickly.”
“This president talks about cognitive capability. He doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware of what’s going on,” Biden said, apparently in reference to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Biden’s cognitive abilities. “He either reads and/or gets briefed on important issues, and he forgets it, or he doesn’t think it’s necessary that he need to know it.”
Biden said that upon learning about the allegations, Mr. Trump should have gotten “to the bottom” of the reports, assembled the Joint Chiefs of Staff “and asked what they’re doing to prevent this.”
The former vice president said Mr. Trump “should have at a minimum picked up the phone and said, ‘Vladimir, old buddy, if any is true … you’ve got a big problem, a big problem.'”
The New York Times and Associated Press reported Monday that the bounty allegations were included in at least one of the president’s written daily intelligence briefings, known as the Presidential Daily Brief.
“The Presidential Daily Brief is something I read every single day as vice president. [President Obama] read it every day. I was briefed every morning before I got to the White House,” Biden said, adding, “So, the idea that somehow he didn’t know or isn’t being briefed — it is a dereliction of duty if that’s the case. And if he was briefed and nothing was done about this, that’s a dereliction of duty.”
Biden was in Wilmington to deliver a speech laying out what he would do to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, in terms of testing, tracing, working with experts and promoting the use of masks to slow the virus’ spread. He also criticized Mr. Trump for his handling of the crisis, which has lately seen a sharp rise in cases in several states.
“Now, it’s almost July, and it seems the wartime president has surrendered, has waved the white flag and left the field of battle,” Biden said, slamming the president because he “gives us no direction” and “pits us against one another.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s top infectious disease experts,earlier in the day that the U.S. is “going in the wrong direction.”
“Clearly, we are not in total control right now,” he said. If trends aren’t reversed, the numbers could get much worse, Fauci said, suggesting new cases each day could reach 100,000.
In Biden’s view, what’s missing is a unified response to the virus, and he criticized the Trump administration’s decision to allow states to decide for themselves how to arrest the spread of the virus.
“Whatever it is that we’re doing now, it’s not working. A state-by-state approach will only produce confusion and slow any progress,” Biden said.
“We can’t continue on like this — half recovering and half getting worse,” Biden said. “We can’t continue — half wearing masks and half rejecting science. We can’t continue — half with a plan and half just hoping for the best.”
The virus won’t be eliminated “with a piecemeal approach — lifting restrictions prematurely,” he said.
After his speech, Biden took questions from reporters about his campaign plans. The former vice president said he would not be holding rallies for the time being, though he said he would rather be “out there with people.”
He also said that the “hard vet” of running mate candidates is “just underway” and will take about six to eight weeks to complete. Asked about whether he has a list of Supreme Court nominees, Biden said he would not reveal it until the candidates have been vetted.
On the question of the three debates he has agreed to participate in with Mr. Trump in the fall, Biden said, “I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against.”
Melissa Quinn and Sarah Ewall-Wice contributed to this report.