President Trump on Wednesday made clear his take on the allegations that Russia put bounties on US troops in Afghanistan: "Fake News." That was part of the president's tweet on the subject, which reads in full, "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!" He subsequently addressed whether he was briefed on the allegations, tweeting, "'No corroborating evidence to back reports.' Department of Defense. 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." More:
- The Hill reports the tweets are the first comments Trump has made on the subject since Monday, when he said the allegations weren't brought to him because they weren't "credible."
- The New York Times, which broke the story on Friday, on Tuesday ran a follow-up that suggested a money trail backs up the intelligence. It indicated sizable amounts of money were funneled from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to an account tied to the Taliban. Other intelligence led analysts to believe these transfers were part of a bounty program and not some other form of Russian support. Its take: "The disclosures further undercut White House officials’ claim that the intelligence was too uncertain to brief President Trump."
- But in an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday morning, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien emphasized that Trump was not briefed on the subject because the intelligence was "uncorroborated," referring to reports to the contrary as “another false story.” He noted that they did ready options for a response should that verification have come through, and that those options would have been presented to Trump.
- Republican senators said much the same on Tuesday after a White House briefing with O'Brien and National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe. They noted the intelligence was "unverified"; called media reports "inaccurate"; and pointed out that the Senate Intelligence Committee had access to the intelligence that Trump did but didn't raise an alarm, "implying the recent controversy has a political motive with the election four months away," as the Hill puts it.
(Read more President Trump