Initial reports that American intelligence officials determined that Russia offered bounties on American service members to militants in Afghanistan made it seem as though it were a relatively recent story that developed earlier this year, but that is apparently not the case.
The Associated Press first reported late last night that the White House was informed of the plot a full year ago.
Moreover, it was included in the President's Daily Brief (PDB) at the time last year.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump was not — and still has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they have not been fully verified. However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.
The Associated Press reports that Trump received the brief last spring, but that's not the only time he has received it in writing.
Multiple reports also confirmed last night that the bounty plot was included in the President's Daily Brief in February of this year.
(CNN) - The intelligence that assessed there was an effort by a Russian military intelligence unit to pay the Taliban to kill US soldiers was included in one of President Donald Trump's daily briefings on intelligence matters sometime in the spring, according to a US official with direct knowledge of the latest information.
That assessment, the source said, was backed up by "several pieces of information" that supported the view that there was an effort by the Russian intelligence unit -- the GRU -- to pay bounties to kill US soldiers, including interrogation of Taliban detainees and electronic eavesdropping. The source said there was some other information that did not corroborate this view but said, nonetheless, '"This was a big deal. When it's about US troops you go after it 100%, with everything you got."
This answers a couple questions and raises new ones.
The question of whether or not Trump was briefed in person or through a written assessment appears to have been answered, but if you accept the White House's word that Trump didn't and still doesn't know anything about it, that means he didn't read the report at least twice.
With that said, every report we've seen indicates that the Russian plot and what to do about it (if anything) were discussed at the White House. So, even if Trump didn't read his brief(s), he had to have known about it.
The simplest explanation to me is that Trump learned of the plot but either didn't care or didn't believe it. His BFF Putin wouldn't authorize something like that, would he? They have such a great relationship.
Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton says Trump is incapable of distinguishing between his personal relationships and his relationship with other world leaders as heads of state. This could be an example of that.