Late Sunday evening, President Donald Trump tweeted that the US had no credible evidence of an alleged link between the Taliban and Russia. Earlier in the day, reports suggested US intelligence had evidence of such a link. Reports seemed to indicate a Russian spy operation was offering bounties on US military personnel.
In the late Sunday Tweet, Trump wrote “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP”. Trump goes on to speculate that the story was the “Fake News” that he routinely rails against. He wonders whether the purpose was to simply “make Republicans look bad”.
According to reporting by The Washington Post, US intelligence has reason to believe Russia had set up a bounty system with the Taliban. According to intelligence gathered by interrogating militants, the program encouraged Taliban members to target US troops in Afghanistan. The program would pay militants for targeting coalition troopers.
Those familiar with the matter, The Washington Post reports, are uncertain of how many Americans died as part of the program. According to reports, there was a late-March White House briefing on the matter. The intelligence passed along through US Spec Ops forces operating in Afghanistan. Neither the CIA, nor either the State Department or Department of Defense have commented on the matter.
Trump is under pressure from lawmakers on either side of the aisle to respond to the reports. Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, tweeted at the president asking for clarification. Monday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced she had written US intelligence officials asking for a briefing for the House of Representatives.
“The questions that arise are: was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed,” Pelosi wrote in the letter. The letter, which was also publicly released, continues “Congress and the country need answers now.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the White House planned to brief Congress on the matter shortly. In her remarks on Monday, McEnany made no note of when this would occur. Or, in fact, which members of Congress would be included.
The press secretary continued, adding that the White House planned to “clear up false reporting”. McEnany went on to criticize publications for “spewing out” what she characterized as “false information”. The veracity of the US intelligence agencies involved would, then, be under question from the White House itself.