An ongoing review is being carried out to determine the accuracy of reports that Russia offered bounty payments to Taliban-linked terrorists to kill American and Coalition troops in Afghanistan, two House Republicans said Monday after a classified briefing with White House officials.
The classified briefing came from administration officials including John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence; Robert O’Brien, the White House National Security Adviser; and Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff, according to Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) in a statement.
“Among other things, they informed us there is an ongoing review to determine the accuracy of these reports, and we believe it is important to let this review take place before any retaliatory actions are taken,” McCaul, Republican Leader on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kinzinger said.
“There are already those who are politicizing the issue. However, we cannot let politics overshadow a truth that Republicans and Democrats alike can agree on: the Putin regime cannot be trusted,” the congressmen added.
“If the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we strongly encourage the administration to take swift and serious action to hold the Putin regime accountable.”
Several news outlets claimed that Russian military intelligence offered bounties to Taliban-linked terrorists to assassinate U.S. and Coalition troops in Afghanistan, citing anonymous officials.
The New York Times and Washington Post were among the first to publish the claims, with the Post reporting on June 28 that several American soldiers were believed to have died as a result of the program. The Kremlin has denied such arrangements.
President Donald Trump said on June 28 that he was never briefed about the issue.
“Nobody briefed or told me, [Vice President Mike Pence] or Chief of Staff [Mark Meadows] about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source’ by the Fake News @nytimes,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“Everybody is denying it. There have not been many attacks on us,” he added. “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.”
He added in another post on June 28, “The Fake News @ nytimes must reveal its ‘anonymous’ source. Bet they can’t do it, this ‘person’ probably does not even exist!”
In a later post on June 29, Trump wrote, “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or [the Vice President].”
Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!! https://t.co/cowOmP7T1S
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2020
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday in a briefing with reporters that there is “no consensus within the intelligence community” on the Russian bounty claims, “and in effect there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community with regards to the veracity of what’s being reported.”
White House officials are set to brief some Democrat lawmakers on the matter on Tuesday morning, the aide to House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.
Reuters contributed to this report.