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