Russian bounties paid to kill American servicemen is headline news, but perhaps more important is who leaked the story and why. By calling out President Trump, highly placed officials — who could be Trump appointees — have in effect mutinied. Even Republicans are defecting. The bounties issue is no hoax, and it unites us as little else has done.

The deadly bounties are just the tip of the iceberg of bad U.S.-Russia relations that will surely worsen after Trump leaves office — because he covers for Putin. Moscow angrily denies the bounties charge but snarls that the U.S. brought down the Soviet Union. Not true; a declining, defective economy and the smoldering resentment of non-Russian nationalities are what doomed the USSR. U.S. pressure in an arms race and Afghanistan — both Moscow’s choices — merely hastened the process.

Some see a moral equivalency between bounties and U.S. arms flowing to anti-Communist fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Soviet soldiers were among their favorite targets, but never with bounties. And U.S. activities in Afghanistan avenged the Soviet-supplied ordnance that maimed and killed Americans in Vietnam. Moral equivalency — everybody is the aggrieved party! — never stops and is misused to justify one war after another.

And the personal bounties are a moral pivot that separates this case from previous ones. In 40 years of Afghan-istan wars, the bounties are not nearly the worst horrors, but they draw great Republican anger. Who can be indifferent to the murder of American soldiers?

In June, the media learned from carefully aimed leaks that Russia’s main assasination bureau (GRU Unit 29155) offers rewards to Afghan Taliban for killing Americans. Special Forces in Afghanistan captured a $500,000 Taliban cache and interviewed many prisoners; all pointed to the same culprit. The White House was first briefed in March 2019 (!) — this reportedly came from Bolton via colleagues — and was informed firmly in late February 2020, but did nothing.

The “mutiny” could have originated in State, DoD, the Agency or the NSC. We may soon know. Bolton mutineed early, but many top officials have grown exasperated with the boss’s ignorance and weak responses. They risk punishment for leaking classified material because they care about our soldiers, their personal integrity and the Constitution. Ignoring overclassification to enlighten citizens is praiseworthy (e.g., the Pentagon Papers). Keeping such material close-hold grants Russia and Trump impunity.

A high-level White House meeting in late March discussed what to do but launched no countermeasures. Trump tweeted that he had never been briefed, then claimed the charges were not verified and credible. He’s scared. A quick check of the President’s Daily Briefing books — copies go to several principals — could settle the question of who knew what when.

The June leak to major media may never be prosecuted. To do so would admit the leak’s accuracy and raise questions why Trump failed to act. “Putin promised to stop rogue operations” will sound awfully naive. Putin hates the U.S. and will do anything to harm us. Russian cyber penetration of U.S. politics started in 2014. Every step not taken against Russia’s shadow wars emboldens Moscow. This is building up to a dangerous showdown that may not pop until Trump departs.

Trump always covers for and never blames Putin. He even wants Russia in the G7. Putin always seems to be smirking at Trump, who acts like Putin has something on him. Women? Tilting the election? Or finances? Russian oligarchs stashed some of their gains from asset-stripping — Putin always getting a cut — in Deutsche Bank with instructions to invest them in Trump properties. Ordering DB to open its records to state and/or federal courts could help settle this charge and impact fall’s elections. That’s why Trump fights it tenaciously.

The military glowers at being ignored and misused. Trump decided, in consultation with nobody, to cut by over a quarter the already small U.S. troop presence in Germany — important for operations in several areas. Withdrawal of the few U.S. forces in Syria betrays the Kurds and abandons American leverage on the murderous Damascus regime. Syria’s Russian and Iranian protectors want us out of Syria. Syria could also ignite an Israel-Iran war that quickly turns nuclear. At low cost, we get a lot out of a few special operators.

The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, in combat fatigues, accompanied President Trump’s armed expedition across Lafayette Square June 1. He belatedly realized he was set up to look like he was commanding troops in clearing away peaceful protesters. He did nothing of the sort and regretted his participation, a DoD-wide warning that they will not be used politically.

The Point: Trump took on the military and lost, an echo of the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, after which Senator McCarthy went into steep decline. The military is one of the few institutions Americans still trust.