GOP senator calls reporting on Russia bounties 'absolutely inaccurate' after White House briefing

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrat Mike Franken launches challenge to Grassley in Iowa Trump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog MORE (R-Iowa) told reporters Tuesday that bombshell media reports that Russia’s military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. service members is “absolutely inaccurate,” making the claim after she and other Republicans were briefed at the White House.

“I think that reporting was absolutely inaccurate. I had a briefing this morning and I know that the evidence is not corroborated,” she said, emphasizing that she was putting “evidence” in air quotes.

“We take threats seriously. At the tactical level, obviously making sure our positions are hardened and we’re watching out for adversaries,” she added.

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Ernst was one of about a half dozen Republican senators who were briefed by Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeSunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Sunday shows preview: US grapples with rising COVID-19 cases MORE, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsMeadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - White House tackles how to vaccinate children ages 5+ Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE and other members of the intelligence community Tuesday morning at the White House, according to persons familiar with the meeting.

She described the briefing as “very informative” and reiterated “the reporting in that article was very inaccurate,” apparently referring to The New York Times article that broke news of the bounties Friday.

She also said information about threats faced by U.S. troops in Afghanistan is being politicized by Democrats.

“The Democrats are really making a big deal of this. They had access to that same sort of information months ago,” she said.

Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.) and Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonIs the Navy totally at sea? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats MORE (R-Ark.), a leading Senate voice on defense issues, were among the Republicans who attended the White House briefing.

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Rubio later told reporters that he thinks media reports about classified intelligence are often inaccurate, though he declined to comment on the details reported in recent stories about Russia offering bounties on U.S. troops.

“I think almost every report on purported intelligence information is inaccurate, not because reporters are wrong but because it misunderstands the purpose of intelligence products. There’s a big difference between analysis and raw intelligence and it’s a point that I think is often missed,” he said.

But Rubio acknowledged “there are groups in Afghanistan that we know — and in other places like Iraq and in Syria — that we know target Americans.”

“They may very well at times be acting as proxies on behalf of foreign adversaries and that’s a well-established fact,” he added. “Congressional leaders knew this, have known this or should have known this for a very long time.”