WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice, who is on Joe Biden’s short list to be his running mate, criticized President Donald Trump on Wednesday for failing to question Russian leader Vladimir Putin about reports Moscow paid bounties for the killing of U.S. troops.
“He is absolutely a failure as our commander in chief,” Rice told the ABC network in an interview. “He has got some very bizarre, very inexplicable reason for always giving Putin the benefit of the doubt.”
Trump said in an interview on Tuesday with “Axios on HBO” that he never questioned Putin about U.S. intelligence reports that Moscow paid the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
Trump, who has sought to cultivate warmer relations with Moscow, has called the reports a hoax and has said he was not briefed on the matter before it emerged in news media in late June.
Trump’s campaign said the president had been tough on Russia, expelling Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions on Russian companies and people over a host of issues. “President Trump has been tougher on Russia than Joe Biden ever thought of being,” said campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
Biden, who leads Trump in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election, is in the final stages of choosing his running mate and said on Tuesday he would name his selection in the first week of August. He has been increasingly expected to pick a woman of color, with the nation roiled by protests over racial injustice.
Speaking to ABC’s “The View,” Rice, who is Black, confirmed she was under consideration by the Biden campaign for the job, but did not say whether she had been interviewed.
Rice, 55, has never run for public office and if tapped by Biden, would be an untested presence on the campaign trail. But she had a solid working relationship with Biden when he served as President Barack Obama’s vice president. She was Obama’s national security adviser from 2013 to 2017.
Rice also criticized Trump for not committing to accept the results of November’s election. Democrats are increasingly concerned Trump will refuse to leave the White House even if defeated, and Rice said it would be important that Trump lose “decisively.”
“It has to be a resounding defeat,” she said.
Trump said in an interview with Fox News earlier in July that he would not commit to accepting the results of the Nov. 3 vote, although representatives of his campaign have said he would respect the results.
Rice conceded that should she be chosen, her role in the aftermath of the 2012 militant attack on the U.S. mission on Benghazi, Libya, would likely become a campaign issue.
At the time, Rice, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was accused by Republicans of misleading the public about the nature of the attack. Congressional probes, however, found no wrongdoing on her part, and Rice on Wednesday defended her actions, calling Republican charges “dishonest.”
“I don’t doubt that the Republicans will use this and they’ll attack whoever is Joe Biden’s choice to be his vice president,” she said.
While Rice is viewed as a serious contender for the No. 2 spot on the ticket, the favorite is considered to be Senator Kamala Harris of California, who battled Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Asked about Harris at the White House on Wednesday, Trump passed up a chance to attack Biden’s possible running mate.
“I think she’d be a fine choice, Kamala Harris,” Trump told reporters. “She’d be a fine choice.”
Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Peter Cooney
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