Pentagon weighs in on New York Times report of Russian-Taliban bounties to kill American soldiers

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The Defense Department weighed in on a controversial New York Times report and backed up President Donald Trump’s assertion that he was never briefed about certain intelligence related to Russia.

The Pentagon announced Monday that there is “no corroborating evidence” backing the report in The Times that claimed that Taliban fighters in Afghanistan received bounty payments from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, in order to target and kill American soldiers.

(Image: CBS News screenshot)

“To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports,” Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement, according to Fox News. “Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan—and around the world—most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.”

Trump pushed back on reports of a possibly “fabricated Russia Hoax” which he said he was not briefed on, insisting in tweets over the weekend that he did not know about the reports. The White House denied that Trump had been briefed and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe had also denied the reports.

The New York Times report, citing unnamed officials, claimed that intelligence officials had investigated Russia’s actions against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and had briefed Trump back in March. The President’s Daily Brief also allegedly included the information and, at the time, a meeting was held by the White House National Security Council to discuss the findings, the report, which also claimed that 20 Americans were killed there in 2019, claimed.

But the president was not briefed on the matter since the intelligence community had not verified the allegations, according to national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

“Nevertheless, the administration, including the National Security Council staff, have been preparing should the situation warrant action,” he said in a statement.

Ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul as well as Rep. Adam Kinzinger said they were told “there is an ongoing review to determine the accuracy of these reports.”

“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,” the lawmakers, who were in the briefing by Ratcliffe, O’Brien and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said in a statement.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany slammed The New York Times over the report and suggested the newspaper, as well as the liberal Washington Post, should return their Pulitzer Prizes. During a White House press briefing on Monday, McEnany called out the “absolutely irresponsible decision” by The Times.

(Source: The Hill/YouTube)

“The president is briefed on verified intelligence, and again, I would just point you back to the absolutely irresponsible decision of the New York Times to falsely report that he was briefed on something that he, in fact, was not briefed on,” she told reporters.

“I really think that it’s time for The New York Times to step back and ask themselves why they’ve been wrong, so wrong, so often,” she said, going on to unload a laundry list of examples.

“The New York Times falsely claimed that Paul Manafort asked for polling data to be passed along to Oleg Deripaska before having to issue a correction. In June 2017, The New York Times falsely wrote all 17 intel agencies had agreed on Russian interference before having to issue a correction that it was only four agencies,” McEnany recounted.

“In 2017– February of that year, New York Times published a story claiming Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, which even James Comey had said was almost entirely wrong,” she added.

The press secretary looked straight at the camera to note the  “Russian hoax” after sharing more examples of The Times’ claims about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“It is inexcusable, the failed Russia reporting of The New York Times,” McEnany concluded. “And I think it’s time for The New York Times and also The Washington Post to hand back their Pulitzers.”


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