The summer was just heating up when The New York Times published a “bombshell” story yet again citing unnamed officials. The Times claimed that a Russia spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan in 2019 to kill U.S. troops. The kicker was that President Donald Trump allegedly knew about the bounties and did nothing.
“The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year,” the Times reported on June 26. “Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said.”
The Times said the three reporters who wrote the story received their information from officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity who said Trump and his National Security Council were brief on the matter.
Former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell said he “never heard this,” while Trump said neither he, Vice President Mike Pence, nor White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were briefed on 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 [New York Times],” Trump tweeted at the time. “Everybody is denying it [and] there have not been many attacks on us. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration. With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine — Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their ‘source’?”
Trump followed up his tweet by saying intelligence officials told him they never briefed him because they did not find the information credible.
Within weeks of the story, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said he found the reports “very worrisome” but added that the bounties had not been connected to any U.S. casualties, The Daily Wire previously reported.
By July 10, top Defense Department officials said they could not corroborate the reports during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.
“All the defense intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate that report,” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper, The Daily Wire reported at the time. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that the Pentagon did not have “cause and effect linkages to a Russian bounty program causing U.S. Military casualties.”
Milley said the Department was still looking into the matter.
Two months later and that link has yet to be found, NBC News reported Monday.
“It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” Gen. McKenzie told the outlet of the alleged bounty program.
“We continue to look for that evidence,” he added. “I just haven’t seen it yet. But … it’s not a closed issue.”
The alleged program — and the allegations that Trump knew about it but did nothing — were used as an attack line against the president by members of the media and Democrats, including Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who called Trump’s alleged inaction a “betrayal” to the country.
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