The New York Times published an explosive article Friday that alleged Russia had put bounties on the heads of American soldiers and other coalition forces in Afghanistan and that the Trump White House was briefed about it in March but has yet to act on it.

In a piece with the headline “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says,” the paper writes that the alleged offer was made to “Taliban-linked militants,” some of whom “are believed to have collected some bounty money”:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The Times report, which was based on claims from numerous anonymous sources who were allegedly “briefed on the matter,” also claimed that Trump was briefed “in late March” about the bounties but had not acted on the news:

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. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

Multiple White House officials are denying that Trump and Vice President Pence were ever briefed on the alleged bounties.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany:

“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.”

She said that the U.S. “receives thousands of intelligence reports a day and they are subject to strict scrutiny,” adding that she is not denying the intelligence exists, but that the president was not briefed on it.

“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 said.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe:

Trump, too, has pushed back, and also wants to find out who the source for the story is:

If this report is anything like some of the other “bombshell” reports in the media that turned out to be nothingburgers (like the Russia collusion hoax), there’s a strong possibility that the source or sources were Obama holdovers with axes to grind.

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post also filed stories on the alleged bounties this weekend, which gives the NYT’s report even more of an appearance of being too conveniently coordinated and timed in a presidential election year to be legit.

Right on cue, Joe Biden was ready with a response:

During a virtual town hall event on Saturday, Biden said that if the Times’ reporting is true, Trump’s knowledge of the situation would be a “truly shocking revelation.”

“Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin,” Biden said, noting that Trump has offered to host Putin in the U.S.

Richard Grenell, who was the Acting DNI when the alleged briefing supposedly took place, fired back at Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) for suggesting that either he deliberately withheld this information from Trump or that the White House was lying about knowledge of it:

Trump hit back at Biden and amplified Grenell’s comments on Twitter this morning:

Any guesses on how soon House Intel Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) stages a dramatic public hearing on this story to try and milk it for all he thinks its worth? The fireworks between him and Grenell alone would make it worth watching.

Stay tuned…

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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