White House says no intel consensus on Russian Federation bounties

Clay Curtis
June 30, 2020

News reports on the bounties, and about whether Mr Trump knew about them, have drawn fresh attention to the president's efforts to build warmer relations with the Kremlin.

A damning article by veteran reporter Carl Bernstein quotes sources describing Trump as "delusional" and jeopardising America's national security and place on the global stage by surrendering political advantage to Putin, who is likened to "a chess grandmaster" making short work of "an occasional player of checkers".

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russian Federation was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban to kill Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, USA officials have told the Associated Press.

Republican lawmakers who have been briefed about reports alleging that Russian Federation paid the Taliban bounties to kill USA troops in Afghanistan are calling for consequences for Russian Federation, if the reports are true.

What are the new developments?

Ratcliffe went on to note that once the investigation is complete, the agency would "brief the President and Congressional leaders at appropriate time". On Sunday, the paper published an additional report that held that USA intelligence and Special Operations forces had alerted superiors in January about the bounties.

The Times report, which has been confirmed by several American and British media outlets, said that U.S. intelligence concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants to kill troops of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

The comments come as the White House continues to distance President Donald Trump from the report, with the president saying intelligence officials reported they did not find the information credible and thus did not brief him on the subject.

Democrats were not invited to the meeting, but House majority leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said he was going to the White House on Tuesday for a briefing on the matter with several House Democrats.

Some expressed alarm about the claims, calling for action against Russian Federation and President Putin be taken if the intelligence reports, now under review, were confirmed. She said that "this is as serious as it gets".

Top Democrats ask US spy chiefs for briefing on Russia bounty reports

In a separate statement, Representatives Liz Cheney and Mac Thornberry, who is the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said: "We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russian Federation or any other country targeting our forces".

An account of the Russian bounties was included in the President's Daily Brief, a written intelligence report, in late February, the New York Times reported on Monday night, citing two officials it didn't identify.

Media captionIs peace with the Taliban possible?

"Nevertheless the administration, including the National Security Council, have been preparing should the situation warrant action", O'Brien said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday said Mr Trump had never brought up the issue in his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, dismissing the allegations as "lies".

His report, based on unnamed sources with knowledge of hundreds of highly classified calls with foreign heads of state, echoes remarks made by former members of the Trump administration, including John Bolton, who served as national security adviser and said Mr Trump "remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House".

"He can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it", Mr Bolton said.

"I am calling for the Directors of National Intelligence and the CIA to immediately brief all 100 Senators on reports that Russian Federation placed bounties on USA troops in Afghanistan", said Schumer, D-N.Y.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, were believed to have collected some money, the newspaper said.

The White House did not respond to questions from AP about Mr Trump or other officials' awareness of Russia's provocations in 2019.

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