The White House is under pressure to explain how much the government knew about the allegations Russia offered to Taliban generals to kill American troops, amid reports that Donald Trump received a written interview earlier this year.
Trump officials insisted that the president was not “personally” informed of the alleged conspiracy in Afghanistan.
But Republicans expressed concern after a meeting at the White House.
On Tuesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives will hear details.
Citing two unnamed American officials, the New York Times said the intelligence assessment was included in the president’s Daily Brief report – a document written with key government information – in late February.
CNN and the Associated Press also reported that the president received the information in a briefing written earlier this year, without specifying when. Trump is said to largely ignore the president’s Daily Brief, relying more on oral instructions from intelligence officials a few times a week.
On Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not respond when reporters asked if the information had been included in the president’s written instructions, saying only that Trump had not been “personally informed”.
McEnany also said that “there is no consensus in the intelligence community” about the assessment. But former intelligence officials told US media that, in previous administrations, claims of such importance would be reported to the president, even if the evidence had not been fully established.
Russia denied the initial reports, while the Taliban said it had made no deal with Russian intelligence.
What are the new developments?
Eight members of the Republican Congress attended a White House briefing led by National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Monday.
Some expressed concern about the claims, calling for action against Russia and President Vladimir Putin, if the intelligence reports, currently under review, are confirmed.
Representatives Adam Kinzinger and Michael McCaul, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking, said in a statement: “If the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we strongly recommend that the government take quick and serious measures to hold the regime accountable. of Putin. “
In a separate statement, Representatives Liz Cheney and Mac Thornberry, who is the main Republican on the House’s Armed Services Committee, said: “We believe it is important to seek vigorously any information related to Russia or any other country that reaches our forces” .
Democrats were not included in the initial meeting and are scheduled to attend a meeting with White House officials on Tuesday.
On Monday night, the Associated Press reported that top White House officials were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence on the matter and that the assessment had been included in at least one of the daily briefings written by President Trump at the time .
The reports are released when the U.S. tries to negotiate a peace deal to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan, and Trump is seeking re-election in the November poll.
Separately, journalist Carl Bernstein reported that officials close to Trump were convinced that the president himself “posed a danger to national security” given how “constantly unprepared” he was in dealing with foreign leaders.
Writing on CNN, Bernstein – one of the journalists who investigated the Watergate scandal in the 1970s – said there were special concerns about “deference from [Mr. Trump to [Mr.] Putin” with the US president ” disorderly requesting the position of [Mr.] Putin admiration “, ignoring important issues on the bilateral agenda.
His report, based on unidentified sources with knowledge of hundreds of highly classified connections with foreign heads of state, echoes the remarks made by former members of the Trump administration, including John Bolton, who served as a national security consultant and said Trump “remained surprisingly uninformed. on how to run the White House.”
In an interview to promote his book, Bolton said of Trump: “I think Putin thinks he can interpret him as a violin.”
What is the context?
Initial reports by The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed American officials, said a Russian military intelligence unit offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan.
The unnamed officials quoted by the New York Times said that US intelligence agencies concluded months ago that a unit of Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU had sought to destabilize its opponents by offering clandestinely rewards for successful attacks on coalition forces.
Islamic militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some money, the newspaper reported.
Twenty American soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2019, but the New York Times said it was not clear which deaths were under suspicion.
Officials cited by the New York Times said the White House’s National Security Council considered how to respond, including the imposition of an increasing series of sanctions against Russia.
According to the Times report on Friday, President Trump was informed of the reports in March. Trump denied being informed, writing on Twitter on Sunday that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence had been informed “about the so-called Russian attacks on our troops in Afghanistan”.