President Trump continued to push back against a bombshell New York Times report that Russia allegedly offered bounties to Afghan militants for killing U.S. soldiers, and that Trump had been briefed on it but did nothing.
The White House has insisted that Trump had not been briefed on that information. Fox News is told that while National Security Council members had met to discuss information about Russian actions in Afghanistan, they did not brief the president on it.
MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE STREAMS SUGGEST RUSSIANS PAYING BOUNTIES FOR US TROOPS, TRUMP NOT BRIEFED: OFFICIAL
“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself.” Trump called on the Times to reveal their source, claiming the story was “Just another HOAX!”
A senior U.S. official who has been briefed on the matter told Fox News earlier this week that the information that the National Security Council had received was based on “several streams of intelligence of concern” with some of it being contradictory and some open to interpretation.
A separate source within the military told Fox News on Monday that special operations forces this year raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000, with a subsequent interrogation of an Afghan fighter revealing that the money came from Russia.
The source added, however, that the information was unable to be easily verified and the incident was not included in briefings to senior leaders at the Pentagon.
TRUMP SAYS INTEL DOESN’T BACK UP REPORT ON RUSSIAN BOUNTIES AGAINST US TROOPS
Reporting from the Washington Post indicated that Russian bounties are “believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members.” The Associated Press reported that officials said an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three Marines in Afghanistan is under investigation.
The White House on Monday insisted there is “no consensus” that the intelligence that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops is accurate, which is why, it said, the issue was never flagged to President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.
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Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that the Defense Department “continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan,” but that so far the department “has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”
“Regardless,” Hoffman added, “we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan – and around the world – most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.”
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Andrew O’Reilly, and Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.