AP: White House aware of Russian bounties in 2019; GOP lawmakers urge action after briefing

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported.

That’s according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence, reports James Laporta.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019.

But the revelations cast new doubt on the White House’s efforts to distance Trump from the Russian intelligence assessments.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied that Russian intelligence officers had offered payments to the Taliban in exchange for targeting U.S. and coalition forces.

Trump has sought throughout his time in office to improve relations with —  and at times mollify —  Russia and Putin.

Congress: Eight Democrats are to be briefed today about the explosive allegations, following Republicans who attended a Monday briefing on the matter. The GOP lawmakers expressed alarm about Russia’s activities in Afghanistan and urged the administration to hold Putin accountable. Members of Congress in both parties are calling for additional information and consequences for Moscow, report Zeke Miller, James Laporta and Mary Clare Jalonick.

Afghanistan: A Taliban spokesman says that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the Taliban’s chief peace negotiator amid the roiling controversy in Washington over the Russian bounty scandal, Kathy Gannon reports from Islamabad.