Trump claims intel on Russian bounties was deemed not credible

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

Trump also suggested that details of 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 directly addressed the credibility of the intelligence as described but have disputed the Times’s account that Trump was briefed on the information. Representatives for the ODNI and CIA did not immediately return requests for comment Monday about the president’s claim that intelligence officials informed him the information was deemed not credible.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on “Fox & Friends” Monday that Congress would be briefed on the matter, without offering further details on who specifically would participate in the briefing. McEnany did not comment on the details of the intelligence but suggested that it had not been deemed “verifiable and credible” in denying that Trump had been briefed on the information.

“Intelligence, we don’t comment on it routinely but just so you know how it works, it is vetted for its veracity and it only goes to the president and the high-level officials when it is deemed as verifiable and credible,” McEnany said.

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. service members in Afghanistan.

The Times reported Friday that the intelligence community concluded months ago that the Russian intelligence unit 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 presidential nominee Joe Biden said during a virtual town hall on 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 Pence was 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,” 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.

Updated at 10:20 a.m.

Tags Afghanistan Donald Trump Joe Biden John Ratcliffe Mike Pence Russia Taliban Vladimir Putin

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