White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that President Donald Trump had never been briefed on information about Russian bounties for killing American soldiers, as a recent bombshell report from the New York Times alleges.
“The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day, and they are subject to strict scrutiny,” she said according to USA Today, adding that her statement “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.”
As the Times story reveals, U.S. leaders were reportedly given information about a bounty offered up by Russia to Taliban-linked militants if they killed U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The story claims that Trump was alerted to the situation in March but hasn’t responded in the months that followed.
“The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said,” the Times reported.
At the time, Trump was reportedly given options for responding to the information, which began with making a diplomatic complaint to the Kremlin. So far, no options have been selected, and the report notes that there hasn’t been an explanation for the delay.
Allegedly, 20 soldiers were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, and Islamist militants were paid for killings, but it isn’t clear which of the deaths are suspected of being driven by Russia’s alleged bounty offer. There also aren’t any details on how targets were selected, how payments were made, or any other details about Russia’s involvement.
McEnany didn’t say that such intelligence didn’t exist, but only that the vice president and president weren’t alerted to the matter. Both Russia and the Taliban have denied the reports. The latter said that they act on their own resources and haven’t targeted Americans since the agreement to end the war.
Trump has faced criticism for his approach to Russia. Unlike his predecessors and some within his cabinet, he has taken an accommodating position towards Moscow. Trump has indicated that he trusted Putin when the Russian leader denied interfering in the 2016 election. This contradicts U.S. intelligence, which indicates that Russia did, in fact, interfere at the time to benefit Trump.
Trump has also been critical of sanctions on Russia and has suggested that the country be allowed to be part of the NATO alliance.