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President Trump said Wednesday that reports of Russia paying bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill U.S. troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan is a hoax, even as his administration continues to brief members of Congress on the matter.
The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party. The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020
“Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level,” Trump said in an additional tweet.
The New York Times first reported that U.S. intelligence officials determined months ago that Russia had secretly offered bounties for successful attacks on coalition forces — including U.S. troops — in Afghanistan last year and that officials provided a written briefing of the finding to Trump in late February.
Trump said Sunday that the intelligence community told him he wasn’t briefed about these allegations because it did not find the reports credible.
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to receive a briefing Wednesday afternoon. Some congressional Democrats and Republicans were briefed on the issue this week by national security adviser Robert O’Brien and John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence.
Following the Democrats’ briefing, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters that while there may be “different judgments as to the level of credibility,” he doesn’t agree with the president’s recent characterizations.
“The president called this a hoax publicly,” Hoyer said. “Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also joined in the briefing.
“I find it inexplicable in light of these very public allegations that the president hasn’t come before the country and assured the American people that he will get to the bottom of whether Russians are putting a bounty on the heads of American troops,” Schiff told reporters.
Republicans have said more investigation is needed.
“Every level of government needs to gather more information to understand this situation better,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Measures have to be taken to be sure our troops are protected.”
Congressional Republicans and Democrats were briefed separately.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., told Mary Louise Kelly on NPR’s All Things Considered that she would have preferred to receive the briefing alongside her Republican colleagues.
“In my experience, we should be receiving the same information whether you’re Democrat or Republican,” Slotkin said. “When it comes to the national security of the country, you know, we should all be putting politics aside and just getting the facts as we understand them.”