The Defense Department said Monday night that "there is no corroborating evidence" to back up the explosive New York Times report last week that said the Russian military offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for killing troops. Americans in Afghanistan.
The report sparked shocks in Washington and led President Trump to completely deny knowing anything about the information cited in the report.
"To date, the Department of Defense has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open source reports. Regardless, we always take the security of our forces in Afghanistan, and around the world, with the utmost seriousness, and therefore continually take steps to avoid harm from possible threats, "said Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon's chief spokesman. , it's a statement.
The New York Times, citing unidentified officials, reported Friday that some "Islamist militants" or "criminal elements" are believed to have collected payments. The report noted that 20 Americans were killed there in 2019. It was unclear if any of those deaths was the result of a reward.
Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, said in a statement that since the allegations in the report were not verified by the intelligence community, Trump has not been briefed on the matter.
"However, the administration, including staff of the National Security Council, has been preparing if the situation warrants action," he said. He said Trump's top priority is the safety of Americans and the safety of the men and women who serve in the military.
Rep. Michael McCaul, the highest-ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger were at the briefing led by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and National Security Advisor Robert O & # 39; Brien. McCaul and Kinzinger said in a statement that lawmakers were told "there is an ongoing review to determine the accuracy of these reports."
"If the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we encourage the Administration to take swift and serious steps to hold the Putin regime accountable," they said.
The White House has maintained that neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence were informed of such intelligence. "This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story that erroneously suggests that President Trump was informed on this matter," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
A White House official told Fox News on Monday that Trump has already been briefed on the matter. It is unclear exactly when this briefing took place, but the official says it took place sometime "after the NY Times reported on unverified intelligence."
The statement disagrees with the White House, which insisted that Trump has not yet been informed.
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Thomas Joscelyn, principal investigator for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group of experts, told the Wall Street Journal that "Moscow's willingness to embrace the Taliban openly and publicly goes back several years" and would not be surprised if there is some truth. The report.
Andrew O & # 39; Reilly and The Associated Press of Fox News contributed to this report.