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

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Trump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge 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.


Ernst was one of about a half dozen Republican senators who were briefed by Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Former Trump intelligence officials say they had trouble briefing him on Russia: report GOP senator calls for Russian bounties briefing after reviewing intelligence MORE, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return Overnight Health Care: Trump downplaying of COVID-19 sparks new criticism of response Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response 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 RubioLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad GOP Miami mayor does not commit to voting for Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark MORE (R-Fla.) and Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad Mellman: Roberts rescues the right? Hillicon Valley: Pompeo floats TikTok ban | Civil rights groups slam Facebook after call | Election security funding included in proposal MORE (R-Ark.), a leading Senate voice on defense issues, were among the Republicans who attended the White House briefing.


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.”