Daily Beast: President Trump was briefed as early as March 2019 on intelligence that Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a new report.
The Associated Press, citing U.S. officials with direct knowledge, says then-National Security Adviser John Bolton told colleagues he gave Trump the details of the situation that March, and it was also included in a daily written briefing back then.
That timeline would mean the White House was aware of the intelligence a year earlier than others have reported since the story broke—and before an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines could be tied to the alleged plot. The White House claims that Trump was never briefed. From AP:
Associated Press: Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
The administration’s earlier awareness of the Russian efforts raises additional questions about why Trump did not take any punitive action against Moscow for efforts that put the lives of Americans servicemembers at risk. Trump has sought throughout his time in office to improve relations with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, moving earlier this year to try to reinstate Russia as part of a group of world leaders it had been kicked out of.
Officials said they did not consider the intelligence assessments in 2019 to be particularly urgent, given that Russian meddling in Afghanistan is not a new occurrence. The officials with knowledge of Bolton’s apparent briefing for Trump said it contained no “actionable intelligence,” meaning the intelligence community did not have enough information to form a strategic plan or response. However, the classified assessment of Russian bounties was the sole purpose of the meeting.