Officials: Trump was briefed on bounties
American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Talibanlinked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.
The investigation into the suspected Russian covert operation to incentivize such killings has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.
The new information emerged as the White House tried Monday to play down the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to encourage and reward killings — including reiterating a claim that Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.
But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27.
Moreover, a description of the intelligence assessment that the Russian unit had carried out the bounties plot was also seen as serious and solid enough to disseminate more broadly across the intelligence community in a May 4 article in the CIA’S World Intelligence Review, a classified compendium, two officials said.
A National Security Council spokesman declined to comment on any connection between the Marines’ deaths and the suspected Russian plot. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh MCEnany, did not answer when pressed by reporters Monday whether the intelligence was included in the written President’s Daily Brief, and the security council spokesman pointed to her comments when asked later about the February written briefing.
Members of Congress in both parties called for additional information and consequences for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Eight Republican lawmakers had attended a White House briefing Monday about the allegations. Democrats were to receive a briefing on Tuesday.
Republicans who were in the briefing expressed alarm about Russia’s activities in Afghanistan.
Rep. Liz Cheney, RWyo., and Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said, “After today’s briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces.”
On CNN, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Dsan Francisco, confirmed the timing of the Democratic briefing but said “it’s no substitute for what they owe the Congress of the United States.” She said, “This is as serious as it gets.”
She speculated that Trump wasn’t briefed “because they know it makes him very unhappy, and all roads for him, as you know, lead to Putin. And would he tell Putin what they knew?”
The intelligence assessments came amid Trump’s push to withdraw the U.S. from Afghanistan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.