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U.S. Intel’s Claim That Russia Put Bounties On U.S. Troops Softens. Biden, Harris Used It To Attack Trump.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden fist bumps newly sworn-in Vice President Kamala Harris after she took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden was sworn in today as the 46th president of the United States.
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U.S. intelligence officials revealed this week that they have only “low to moderate” confidence in a story that claimed Russia put bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported last year:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

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.

However, officials said on Thursday that the intelligence community only had “low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019, and perhaps earlier, including through financial incentives and compensation.”

“Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue,” the Daily Beast reported on Thursday.  “According to the officials on Thursday’s call, the reporting about the alleged ‘bounties’ came from ‘detainee reporting’–raising the specter that someone told their U.S.-aligned Afghan jailers what they thought was necessary to get out of a cage.”

The Daily Beast noted that the “huge election-time story” prompted calls of “treason” against Trump, but with the latest revelation, “Trump might have been right to call it a ‘hoax.'”

During the campaign, Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both attacked the Trump administration over the claim that Russia offered bounties on U.S. troops.

During a Fox News interview on Thursday night, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called on both Biden and Harris to apologize to Trump for it.

“Joe Biden owes President Trump an apology. Joe Biden used that line of attack multiple times in the campaign to include in the presidential debate,” Cotton said. “I remember when it first surfaced last summer, I was open-minded to it, it sounds like something that Vladimir Putin and the Russians would do. But I sit on the Intelligence Committee. I reviewed it carefully, and again, I could not see where these reports in the media were coming from.”

“We now have the Biden administration itself confirming that they only have low to moderate confidence, which is pretty low in terms of the intelligence community’s assessments,” Cotton said. “So Joe Biden really owes Donald Trump an apology, as does Kamala Harris and every other Democrat that attacked him on the basis of unsubstantiated media reports.”

Cotton added that he thinks the story likely originated with “some people in the government who didn’t like Donald Trump” who “wanted to help Joe Biden get elected, and they selectively leaked it without providing the proper context to it.”

Journalist Drew Holden went back and catalogued the media’s reporting on the issue and how they aggressively used it to push a narrative that was damaging to Trump. “In many ways, this story was the Russian Collusion hoax in miniature: Trump is bad, so we’ll believe anything that’s said about him, especially if it involves Russia,” Holden said. “A truly shameful showing from those who are meant to tell the American people the truth.”

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