Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban to kill Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, US officials have told the Associated Press.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. John Bolton, who was then the national security adviser, also told colleagues that he briefed Mr Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
The White House did not respond to questions from AP about Mr Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Mr 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.
Mr Bolton declined to comment on Monday when asked if he had briefed Mr Trump about the matter in 2019. On Sunday, he suggested to NBC’s Meet the Press that Mr Trump was claiming ignorance of Russia’s provocations to justify his administration’s lack of a response.
“He can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it,” Mr Bolton said.