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Trump Calls Bounty Report A 'Hoax' Despite Administration's Briefing Of Congress

President Trump, here last week at the White House, insists he wasn't briefed on reports of Russian bounties on coalition forces in Afghanistan because the intelligence community didn't find them credible.
Mandel Ngan
AFP via Getty Images
President Trump, here last week at the White House, insists he wasn't briefed on reports of Russian bounties on coalition forces in Afghanistan because the intelligence community didn't find them credible.

Updated 4:37 p.m. ET

President Trump said Wednesday that reports of Russia paying bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill U.S. troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan is a hoax, even as his administration continues to brief members of Congress on the matter.

"Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level," Trump said in an additional tweet.

The New York Times first reported that U.S. intelligence officials determined months ago that Russia had secretly offered bounties for successful attacks on coalition forces — including U.S. troops — in Afghanistan last year and that officialsprovided a written briefing of the finding to Trump in late February.

Trump said Sunday that the intelligence community told him he wasn't briefed about these allegations because it did not find the reports credible.

The Gang of Eight, which includes top congressional leaders and the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees, will receive a briefing on the matter Thursday morning from CIA Director Gina Haspel and the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, according to congressional and White House sources. Democrats have been pressing for Haspel to be a part of congressional briefings.

The Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed Wednesday afternoon. Some congressional Democrats and Republicans were briefed on the issue this week by Ratcliffe and national security adviser Robert O'Brien.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters afterward that while there may be "different judgments as to the level of credibility," he doesn't agree with the president's recent characterizations.

"The president called this a hoax publicly," Hoyer said. "Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called for action on the information.

"I find it inexplicable in light of these very public allegations that the president hasn't come before the country and assured the American people that he will get to the bottom of whether Russians are putting a bounty on the heads of American troops," Schiff told reporters.

Republicans have said more investigation is needed.

"Every level of government needs to gather more information to understand this situation better," said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. "Measures have to be taken to be sure our troops are protected."

Congressional Republicans and Democrats were briefed separately.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., told Mary Louise Kellyon NPR's All Things Considered that she would have preferred to receive the briefing alongside her Republican colleagues.

"In my experience, we should be receiving the same information whether you're Democrat or Republican," Slotkin said. "When it comes to the national security of the country, you know, we should all be putting politics aside and just getting the facts as we understand them."

NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith and congressional reporter Claudia Grisales contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.