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Trump claims intel on Russian bounties was deemed not credible

29 Jun 2020 TheHill

President Trump claimed in a late-night tweet that he was not briefed on intelligence about a Russian unit offering bounties on American troops in Afghanistan because the U.S. intelligence community deemed the information not credible.

Trump also suggested that details on the intelligence, first reported by The New York Times on Friday, may have been fabricated by the media in order to “make Republicans look bad.”

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” Trump tweeted late Sunday night. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Neither the White House nor the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) have addressed the credibility of the intelligence as described, but have disputed the Times’ account that Trump was briefed on the information. Representatives for ODNI and CIA did not immediately returned requests for comment Monday about the president’s claim that intelligence officials informed him the information was deemed not credible.

Trump’s tweet Sunday came shortly after The Washington Post reported that intelligence assessments concluded that the Russian payments offered to Taliban-linked militants led to the deaths of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Times reported Friday that the intelligence community concluded months ago that the Russian intelligence unit commonly known as the GRU secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants for successful attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan last year. The newspaper reported that Trump had been briefed on the intelligence and that officials had deliberated potential response options but that the White House hadn’t authorized any further action.

The revelations quickly prompted criticism of Trump, who has been consistently scrutinized for his friendliness toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and resistance to taking firm action against Moscow over its interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale,” presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said during a virtual townhall Saturday. “It’s betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way. It’s a betrayal of every single American family with a loved one serving in Afghanistan or anywhere overseas.”

The White House on Saturday denied that Trump or Vice President Mike Pence were briefed on the intelligence, but did not refute the accuracy of the intelligence as described by the Times and other news outlets.

“The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day and they are subject to strict scrutiny. While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA Director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

“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,” McEnany continued.

Thereafter, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who was just recently installed in the top intelligence post by Trump, issued a statement backing the White House but did not comment on the substance of the intelligence reported by the Times.

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