On Friday, the New York Times ran an alleged bombshell report alleging Russia had put bounties on American soldiers and other coalition forces in Afghanistan and that President Trump was briefed about it in March but had done nothing about it.

Democrats like Rep. Ted Lieu (CA) quickly jumped on the anonymously sourced story as “proof” that Trump is more loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin than U.S. troops. Some Republicans including House Armed Services committee member Liz Cheney (WY) posted tweets asking questions:

The report was denied by Trump and flatly debunked by DNI John Ratcliffe, who tweeted that he confirmed “neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.” Furthermore, he stated, the paper’s reporting “and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.”

Richard Grenell, who was the Acting DNI when the alleged briefing supposedly took place, also blasted back at the various reports and ripped Lieu and other Democrats for not understanding “how raw intel gets verified” and for “manipulat[ing]” intelligence “for political gain.”

Because the New York Times doubled down over the weekend and other media outlets like the Associated Press filed reports that supposedly confirmed the alleged briefing, a full-scale feeding frenzy erupted on social media and Capitol Hill. Republicans pledged to get to the bottom of who knew what where and when, and Democrats and the mainstream media continuing to suggest this was just more evidence of Trump’s supposed allegiance to Putin over his own country.

However, more Trump officials are stepping forth on the record to confirm Trump was not briefed on the alleged bounties, including National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien:

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman also issued a statement, noting that “to date, the DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports,” which might explain why Trump wasn’t briefed on them:

Ratcliffe tweeted Monday night that members of Congress and Trump would be briefed “at the appropriate time” about the alleged bounties and what if any credible information they can obtain on them:

CBS News senior investigative reporter Catherine Herridge tweeted that a “senior intel official” told her the allegations “were not contained in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB)”:

In later tweets that matched up with other officials have gone on the record as saying, Herridge reported that an “intelligence official with direct knowledge” said the intelligence collected on the alleged bounties “did not go further” than “low levels” of the NSC because it was deemed “uncorroborated” and there was “dissent” within the intelligence community:

With multiple officials on and of the record saying the intelligence was not substantiated to a level that would require the information to be in a PDB, and with the briefing White House officials gave to members of Congress yesterday, some of the Republicans who initially raised alarm bells appear to be backing down while still expressing concern:

Cheney and ranking House Armed Services committee member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) issued this statement after the briefing:

“After today’s briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces. It has been clear for some time that Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan. We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russia or any other country targeting our forces. Congress has no more important obligation than providing for the security of our nation and ensuring our forces have the resources they need. We anticipate further briefings on this issue in the coming days.”

All the bluster about this story has got me wondering if it was planted by a disgruntled former (John Bolton?) or a current official as a way of distracting from something potentially damaging to Democrats and/or former officials that may be getting ready to drop in the coming weeks. Wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened.

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

 

 
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