Trump Denies Knowledge of Russian Bounty Plot. Now What?

Written by SK Ashby

A major story broke over the weekend when the New York Times and Washington Post reported that American intelligence officials determined that Russia had offered bounties on American service members to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Both outlets reported that Trump was briefed on the matter earlier this year, but he denied knowing anything about it.

The Associated Press independently reported this morning that Trump was briefed.

While Russian meddling in Afghanistan isn’t new, officials said Russian operatives became more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012. Russian operatives are said to have met with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, and Afghanistan; however, it’s unknown if the meetings were to discuss bounties. [...]

The intelligence officials told the AP that Trump was briefed on the bounty matter earlier this year; Trump denied that, tweeting Sunday neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence had been briefed. Trump tweeted Sunday night he was just told intelligence officials didn’t report the information to him because they didn’t find it credible.

The intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the matter insisted on anonymity to discuss the highly sensitive matter.

Even if you believe Trump's denial that that he was ever briefed (I don't), what's he going to do now?

Even if he didn't know about it before, he knows about it now and I don't see him rushing to do anything about it. In fact, he spent his weekend on the golf course. Congressional Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be briefed on the matter today and will likely call for some sort of response, but the message from the White House has been to deny and downplay.

This a damning story for Trump no matter what angle you look at it from.

Maybe he was orally briefed and didn't pay attention. Maybe he recieved it in writing but didn't read it. Maybe he wasn't briefed and those responsible for doing so fell down on the job. Maybe he was briefed but doesn't care. Maybe he was briefed and still chose to invite Russia to the (previously canceled) meeting of the G7.

The British press also reported over the weekend that Russia's bounties targeted coalition forces in Afghanistan including British troops.

Considering the timing of all of this, I have to wonder if other world leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel knew about this plot when they forcefully opposed Trump's expanded G7 meeting that would have included Russia. They have their own reasons for opposing Russia's inclusion, but maybe this was among them.

Russia's bounty system did result in attacks and deaths according to each report. Special forces even found the stacks of American dollars that was used to pay for it.

In early 2020, members of the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known to the public as SEAL Team Six, raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000. The recovered funds further solidified the suspicions of the American intelligence community that the Russians had offered money to Taliban militants and linked associations.

One official said the administration discussed several potential responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step.

I am very interested to know exactly where the dollars physically came from.