Of­fi­cials: Trump was briefed on boun­ties

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Char­lie Sav­age, Eric Sch­mitt, Ni­cholas Fan­dos and Adam Gold­man Char­lie Sav­age, Eric Sch­mitt, Ni­cholas Fan­dos and Adam Gold­man are New York Times writ­ers.

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.

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