White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday did not deny the validity of the report, but instead said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were not briefed “on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers for the military intelligence GRU recently offered money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as rewards if they killed US or UK troops there, according to a European intelligence official. US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties, amid peace talks, the Times said in its report.
Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and the White House’s National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March, according to the Times, citing officials briefed on the matter.
The European intelligence official was unclear in comments to CNN as to the precise Russian motivation for the attempted bribes, but said the incentives had, in their assessment, led to coalition casualties. The official did not specify as to the date of the casualties, their number or nationality, or whether these were fatalities or injuries.
In addition to McEnany, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe also said in a statement on Saturday that he had “confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.”
He added: “The White House statement addressing this issue earlier today, which denied such a briefing occurred, was accurate. The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.”
According to the Times, the Trump administration held expanded briefings about the intelligence assessment last week and shared information about it with the British government, whose forces were also believed to have been targeted.
The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, on Friday denounced the Times report as “baseless allegations” that have led to death threats against Russian diplomats in Washington and London. The Taliban also rejected the report.
This story has been updated with additional background information and context.
CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, Veronica Stracqualursi and Radina Gigova contributed to this report.