WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Monday that President Donald Trump wasn’t briefed on US intelligence assessments earlier this year that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan because the information had not been “verified.”
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany asserted that intelligence “would not be elevated to the president until it was verified.” However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to senior government decision-makers.
McEnany added that a House briefing for select members of Congress was being held Monday, but she said that even then, Trump still had not been briefed on the intelligence. Eight Republican lawmakers were in the briefing, an official said, adding Democrats were invited but chose not to attend. McEnany declined to say why a different standard applied to briefing lawmakers than the president.
“There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations and in effect there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community with regards to the veracity of what’s being reported and the veracity of the underlying allegations continue to be evaluated,” McEnany said.
The intelligence assessments came amid Trump’s push to withdraw the US from Afghanistan and suggested Russia was making overtures to militants as the US and the Taliban held talks to end the long-running war. The assessment was first reported by The New York Times, then confirmed to The Associated Press by American intelligence officials and two others with knowledge of the matter.
While Russian meddling in Afghanistan isn’t new, officials said Russian operatives became more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012. Russian operatives are said to have met with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, and Afghanistan; however, it’s unknown if the meetings were to discuss bounties.