W.House denies Trump briefed on Russia-Taliban bounty intelligence

Elias Hubbard
June 29, 2020

(CNN)President Donald Trump on Sunday denied receiving a briefing about intelligence that Russians had tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill United States troops, as The New York Times first reported and CNN has confirmed.

The Taliban have denied the report, reiterating that they were committed to an accord signed with Washington in February that paves the way for withdrawing all foreign forces from Afghanistan by next year.

Citing unnamed officials, the Times report, published Friday, details how USA intelligence officials reached the conclusion about the secret payments and then briefed the president in March.

The White House and Director of National Intelligence on Saturday denied the report. The finding was also included in the President's Daily Brief, according to the Times.

Pelosi and House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff also questioned why, if Trump's claims were true, he was not told about the bounty offer.

'Nobody's been tougher on Russian Federation than the Trump Administration'.

"With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine - Where's Hunter? Who is their "source"?"

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday did not deny the validity of the report, but instead said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were not briefed "on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence".

CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers for the military intelligence GRU recently offered money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as rewards if they killed U.S. or United Kingdom troops there, according to that source.

A statement Saturday by John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, also denied that the president was briefed on the issue, but also did not refute that Russian Federation had offerred bounties in exchange for attacks on USA forces. USA intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties, amid peace talks, the Times said in its report.

According to the newspaper, the Taliban operation was led by Unit 29155, an arm of Russia's military intelligence agency GRU, which has been blamed in numerous global incidents including a 2018 chemical weapons attack in Britain that almost killed Russian-born double agent Sergei Skripal.

United States intelligence concluded that Russian Federation intervened in the 2016 presidential election in a bid to assist Trump, including through manipulation of social media.

The Russian embassy in Washington denied the Times report in a tweet on Saturday, calling the report "fake news." The Taliban also rejected the report.

Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate set to challenge Trump in the November 3 election, said during a virtual town hall on Saturday that the Times report, if true, represents a "truly shocking revelation", noting in particular Trump's reported failure to retaliate.

Trump has scoffed at the findings and sought a warmer relationship with President Vladimir Putin, even as his administration keeps imposing sanctions over Russian Federation over its actions on Ukraine.

"If I'm elected president, make no mistake about it, Vladimir Putin will be confronted and we'll impose serious costs on Russia", Biden said.

In another tweet Sunday, Trump responded by calling his likely 2020 opponent corrupt and his comments on the Times story, "obviously written by his handlers".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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