U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Air Force One from the Marine One helicopter as he departs on a day trip to Arizona and a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, leaving Washington from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., June 23, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
President Donald Trump received a written briefing in February about intelligence regarding potential bounties offered by Russians to Afghan militants to kill American service members, The New York Times reported Monday night, citing two officials with knowledge of the matter.
The Associated Press also reported that the White House was aware of intelligence that Russians had placed bounties on U.S. troops in 2019.
Trump and the White House have denied that the president had been briefed on the matter. The White House had also said that the intelligence underpinning the claim was unverified.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The Times said the investigation has homed in on a car bombing in April 2019 that killed three Marines. Felicia Arculeo, whose son Cpl. Robert Hendriks, 25, died in the attack, told CNBC earlier Monday that she wanted an investigation into the claims that the victims were targeted by Taliban fighters who may have been offered bounties by Russian military intelligence agents.
Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, were the other Marines killed in the attack, which came days before they were due to return home from Afghanistan.
The Times on Friday first reported that U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed that a Russian intelligence unit last year offered bounties to Islamist fighters in Afghanistan who killed U.S. soldiers.
The Times also reported that Trump had been briefed on the matter in March, but as of yet had not decided on whether or how to retaliate against Russia after being presented with a menu of options.
However, Monday, The Times reported that Trump had access to the information earlier, in February. The newspaper reported that one of the officials it cited had said it appeared in the president’s daily brief on Feb. 27.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a press briefing Monday that the president had not been briefed. Pressed on the matter by reporters, including whether that applied to the president’s daily briefing, she said: “He was not personally briefed on the matter. That is all I can share with you today, is that both the CIA director, the national security advisor, and the chief of staff can all confirm neither the president or the vice president was briefed.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.