The White House was warned of possible Russian rewards for killing US troops in early 2019.


The revelation comes after the White House repeatedly denied that Trump had been “personally informed” about similar intelligence this year, alleging that the assessment “was not verified.”

But a US official familiar with the latest information told CNN on Monday that information about Russian rewards was included in the President’s Daily Report (PDB) sometime in the spring of this year. The written document includes the most important and urgent information from the intelligence communities.

Now CNN learned that the threat was mentioned in intelligence reports provided to the National Security Council more than a year ago.

At the time, it was unclear which group or entity linked to Russia was making the offer, whether the Taliban had accepted, or whether the rewards were linked to any attack on US troops, the source said.

But it did provide an indication that intelligence officials were already aware of Russia’s effort to indirectly attack U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, one of several streams of threats that were being monitored as tensions between the Two countries increased due to the poisoning of Sergi Skripal, a former spy in the United Kingdom, the source said.

The news further undermines the White House’s claim that Trump was not “briefed” on the matter and will likely increase pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who are already asking top administration officials to testify about what they knew and when.

The reports were relayed to senior National Security Council officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton, who would have ultimately decided to report to the President or not, the source said, adding that they did not know if he elected to do so.

But Bolton was aware of the reports, according to this source. Multiple sources have told CNN that Bolton is a true consumer of intelligence.

The NSC was not aware of additional intelligence related to Russian rewards in the final months of 2019, according to a former senior NSC official. The gap indicates that there was a period of time in which there was no new intelligence on the matter deemed significant enough for the NSC and Trump to notice.

New intelligence emerged in early 2020

However, the situation changed in early 2020 when a new intelligence emerged, detailing how the Russian actors offering the rewards were officers from the Russian intelligence unit, the GRU. That information was included in Trump’s PDB.

“Intelligence reaches the NSC in several ways, the PDB is just one of them,” according to CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd, who served in the NSC during the Obama administration.

The President receives a copy of the PDB every day, as does Vice President Mike Pence, but Trump is known for not reading it. Even after intelligence analysts added additional photos and graphics to make it more attractive, the document is often unread, according to people familiar with the matter.

“The intelligence directorate is involved in pointing out key threat streams to the national security adviser, as are other relevant directorates,” Vinograd said.

Former intelligence officials mock White House denials that Trump was not informed of Russia's reward

The national security adviser is both a filter for the intelligence his team receives and a guardian when it comes to intelligence reaching the president of other members of the national security team, Vinograd added, noting that they are ultimately body responsible for ensuring that the president knows what he needs to know

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on whether the White House had received information about possible Russian rewards in early 2019.

The NSC and a Bolton spokesman did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

On Monday night, The New York Times reported that the information had been included in a written report to the President in late February.

The Associated Press was the first to report the existence of this intelligence in 2019. The AP also reported that the Russian reward threat was at Trump’s PBD in 2019 and that Bolton had informed Trump in March 2019.

“I did not respond to any comments and that is what I will do to you,” Bolton said this morning during an interview on WCBS 880 when asked about the AP report. Bolton cited the fact that he did not want to reveal classified information.

“I don’t want to go into details,” Bolton said when asked if the threat was known to the highest national security circles in Washington. He added that the problem is Trump’s policy given that the Taliban have not maintained an agreement with the United States in 20 years.

On the merits of the issue “the Russians have wanted us to leave Afghanistan for a long time,” Bolton said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that reports by Russian intelligence officers offering money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as a reward for killing US or British troops are “a hoax” and a “lie” in the early days. Kremlin remarks after mounting anger in Washington on the matter.

“First, these claims are a lie. Second, if the US special services continue to report to the President, then I suggest [you] come from the corresponding statements by President Trump, who has already evaluated these reports, “Peskov said in a conference call with reporters when asked to comment on the reports.

Congress wants answers

Republican lawmakers who were briefed on intelligence Monday at the White House were told that the intelligence in question was from this year, according to an aide to Congress, who also made clear that members had not independently verified that claim and which was simply what the administration had told them.

A group of House Democrats received intelligence on Afghanistan’s intelligence Tuesday, but Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said administration officials did not provide any new information, saying it was essentially ” the White House staff who tell us their perspective. “

“We did not receive any substantial new information,” Hoyer said during a press conference after the briefing. He added that he would have preferred that the information be released by intelligence officials.

He said intelligence is “very, very troubling” and rejected the suggestion made by Trump and Peskov that it is a hoax.

“Nothing in this report that we just received led me to believe that it is a hoax,” Hoyer said. “There may be different judgments about the level of credibility, but there is no claim that the information we had was a hoax.”

He reiterated the call by Democratic leaders for a full briefing for members of Congress from the intelligence community to discuss their assessment of the veracity of intelligence.

Meanwhile, Democrats in both the House and the Senate have made it clear that they intend to pressure the administration for answers related to which officials had intelligence intelligence and when they became aware of it.

Top Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Committees and Armed Services Committees sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday asking for answers about their intelligence knowledge, according to a copy of the correspondence obtained. on CNN.

The letter, signed by Senators Bob Menéndez of New Jersey, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Dick Durbin of Illinois, also asks Esper and Pompeo to explain why various decisions made by Trump in the time since the information was included. in your journal. The report “clearly supports the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while putting US service members at unnecessary risk.”

It also includes a request for members of Trump’s cabinet to appear before the Senate in the coming days to shed light on their knowledge of the reported Russian rewards and answer questions about the “resulting measures” taken by the State Department and the Department of Defense in light of this. intelligence.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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