There are two possibilities -- the story is true or it isn't.
I don't know for a sworn-fact if it's true. I do know that newspapers make mistakes. But then, so too do political administrations. I also know that when newspapers make mistakes, they generally acknowledge them. And political administrations rarely do. I know as well that if a newspaper makes too many mistakes it will lose subscribers and risk going out of business. Administrations are guaranteed four years in office. Finally, I know that over the past 100 years or so, the New York Times has an admirable record for accuracy, even if it not perfect. And in three years the Trump administration has lost all credibility with over 18,000 documented lies, incompetently overseen a pandemic from which so far 128,437 Americans have die, mishandled national protests for social change, and been impeached.
So, while not knowing for a fact what the truth is, credibility falls on the side of the New York Times.
Having said that, there is still an additional question -- once intelligence services determined that Russia had paid mercenaries to kill American soldiers (something Russia has a record of in conflicts with other countries, which lends further credibility to that part of the story), it remains to knowing if Trump was told or if he was kept in the dark.
Either explanation is disastrously terrible for Trump.
I've read many analyses that explain why it's possible intelligence services didn't tell Trump. I won't delve into any of the explanations individually, except for one -- that the intelligence service wasn't certain enough of the story in March or even the three months since to pass it along. And while that's possible, as are all the reasons, it's important to note that in just the three days since the New York Times story was reported, other intelligence has been uncovered to confirm it. So, putting all the explanations aside why Trump might conceivably not have known, all that's necessary here is to assume that, for whatever reason, the intelligence services chose not to tell the commander in chief that Russia had paid mercenaries to kill American soldiers, and 20 of them died.
Accepting the possibility that this is true, and it's certainly possible, it shows an administration totally out of control for one of its most important tasks, to protect its citizenry. It shows a president kept of of the loop from receiving information of the most critical nature of our top adversary. Kept out because of his incompetence and incompetence of those he's hired to handle such protection, or kept out because intelligence services don't trust him -- for good, proven reason. Though he should still be kept informed. Either way, however, this is horrifically bad.
It's also not likely. Because if it was the case, that this information was kept from Trump, his reaction would be -- or in any sentient human, should be -- an explosion against Russia and also against his intelligence services. Instead, the Trump response has been that he didn't know. And then went to play golf.
[UPDATE: Based on two new stories on Monday, it's even less likely that the information was kept from Trump. The first from David Ignatius of the Washington Post says his sources tell him that Pentagon officials were "pounding on the door" to get Trump to act. And the other, from Radio Free Europe (a sister-network to the Voice of America) says that days after the Russian bounty was learned of in late March, there was an unprecedented flurry of five phone calls between Trump and Putin over three weeks, all but one of which the White House hid from public records.'
Which brings us to the denials that he knew.
Again, none of the denials are with an outrage of fury that he wasn't informed and didn't know. Just -- well, gee, no, he wasn't briefed on that. Move on, folks. And the denials also don't include an insistence that the charge against Russia isn't true. At best, the White House has referred to them as "alleged" charges, not "false charges." And the denials center totally around the word "briefed." No, Trump was not briefed on this.
I'd love for the press secretary Kayleigh McEnany to be asked to define her use of the word "briefed." Because it's a very flexible term. It could mean a sit-down meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence and head of the CIA and FBI director. It could mean Trump being given the President's Daily Briefing document along with, given the serious nature of the information, a sit-down summary from the officer delivering the PDB and his superior. It could mean Trump actually reading the PDB (something we know he rarely does unless it's just charts and cartoons), rather than just being told. It could mean any number of things according to the White House Definition of the Day - and as long as that one thing didn't happen, then no, Trump was not officially "briefed." So, what would be better to know is a different, very simple question -- was Trump ever informed in any way about the intelligence report on Russia?
And even if the press secretary's answer is "No" - and I think most rational people are pretty certain that the answer is most-likely "Yes" -- the administration's credibility is so non-existent with his 18,000+ documented lies that it's reasonable to assume that Trump and those around him would lie. Because when you're a pathological liar, it's what you do, like breathing. But even if the press secretary's answer is "No," it begs the obvious and important question -- why then has Trump not been outraged by now learning he was not told about something so heinous and instead simply went to play golf??????!!!!!!!!
I would suggest that Trump saying nothing and then going to play golf are evidence that he wasn't shocked and outraged by the story and by not having been informed because he was informed and knew all about it.
But even bending over backwards and stretching all humane credibility and assuming that he wasn't informed, to not publicly respond with fury at both Russia and his intelligence advisors shows -- under the very best possible conditions -- a gross negligence and incompetence.
But that's moot because of course he knew. And did nothing to respond. But invited Putin to visit the United States and pushed to have Russia back into the G8.
Every once in a while, something gets invented on the Internet and takes on a life of its own. In this case, it's whoever came up with the idea of transposing the letters "AS" for a "45," Trump's presidential number, and brought for "TRE45ON."
And through this all, the Republican Party members in the Senate and House have been...silent. Almost near totally. And more than ever, when I've been writing holds true loudly and even more extensively --
This isn't about Trump, we know who he is. This is about the elected members of the Republican Party -- most especially the hardliners, the military hawks, the warmongers, those crying that any cut to the defense budget is un-American -- who enable him, are silent, have blood on their hands and are complicit.