The White House on Saturday denied that President Donald Trump had been briefed on intelligence that reportedly showed Russia had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants if they killed US soldiers in Afghanistan.
The New York Times on Friday reported that a Russian military intelligence unit was secretly offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan for killing American troops amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there.
“The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year,” the Times reported.
The report said President Donald Trump and the White House have known for months about the finding, but have not authorized any response.
According to the Times: “The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.”
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday claimed that “neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
But she added: “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of The New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter.”
That left open the possibility such intelligence does exist.
Rep. Michael McCaul, D-Texas, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter that if the report is true, “it would only deepen my grave concerns about the (Vladimir) Putin regime’s malicious behavior globally.”
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, tweeted: “The statement by White House @PressSec does not deny Russia paid bounties to militants to kill US troops. It’s also hard to believe her statement is true. But if it is, then we would expect @realDonaldTrump to immediately disinvite Putin from the G7 Summit & impose sanctions.”
The statement by White House @PressSec does not deny Russia paid bounties to militants to kill US troops.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 27, 2020
This raises more questions than it answers https://t.co/YnCqDekrIA
— Sam Stein (@samstein) June 27, 2020
If this is true, why was the president not briefed on this?
And now that the president has this knowledge, why has he not commented? https://t.co/qCmZIIe4GN
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 27, 2020