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National Security & Defense

Multiple Reports Challenge White House Claim That Trump Was Never Briefed on Russian Bounty Intel

President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 28, 2019. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

A pair of reports in the New York Times and Associated Press claim that White House officials briefed President Trump on intelligence that suggested Russia offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops — but the Trump administration maintains that the intelligence was never verified and therefore never made it to the president’s desk.

In a report published Tuesday, The Associated Press cited anonymous officials who said the White House knew of the classified intelligence in early 2019, and that former national security adviser John Bolton told colleagues that he briefed Trump on the intelligence in March 2019.

Bolton declined to comment when asked about the alleged intelligence by the AP, but on Sunday denied any knowledge of the alleged bounties, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that “there’s a lot we don’t know so we should be cautious . . . we don’t know the quality or the extent of the intelligence, if it does go back to March that raises other questions.”

The New York Times, which first broke the story, also reported Tuesday that the intelligence was included in Trump’s daily briefing document back in February.

Trump administration officials have denied that Trump was ever briefed on the matter: national security adviser Robert O’Brien released a statement saying that while the administration has “been preparing should the situation warrant action,” the reports “have not been verified” and the president “had not been briefed on the items.”

The Pentagon released its own statement saying it “has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations,” while CIA director Gina Haspel explained in a statement that “preliminary Force Protection information is shared throughout the national security community,” but did not comment on whether the allegations against Russia had been verified.

The president has denied he was ever briefed on the situation, saying “Intel . . . did not find this info credible” and claimed the situation was “possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax.” On Monday, a U.S. intelligence official told CBS News’ Catherine Herridge that the intelligence reached “low levels” of the NSC but “does not match well-established and verifiable Taliban and Haqqani practices” and lacks “sufficient reporting to corroborate any links.”

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