US officials discovered Russia’s payments to the Taliban to target US troops


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The Trump administration on Monday briefed several GOP lawmakers on intelligence suggesting Russia paid Taliban-linked militants to target US troops in Afghanistan, but did not tell the House Republicans that US officials had intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency (the GRU) to a Taliban-linked account, the New York Times reported.

The intercepted data on the financial transfers is corroborated by intelligence gleaned from interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals, the Times said, and is among the most significant reported findings regarding the alleged Russian plot so far. 

Monday’s White House briefing for the GOP lawmakers was primarily conducted by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien.

The briefing included information supporting the conclusion that Russia ran the bounty operation, as well as information that undermined it.

Two people familiar with the meeting told the Times that the briefing seemed designed to underscore that the intelligence was not “clear cut.” It’s unclear why the administration did not tell the lawmakers about the financial evidence reportedly intercepted by US officials. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence when contacted by Insider pointed to a statement from Ratcliffe on Monday saying “we are still investigating the alleged intelligence.” 

The Trump administration has downplayed the alleged Russian bounty operation since the Times first broke the story last week, claiming that the reports are unsubstantiated and that President Donald Trump was never briefed on the matter. The White House has taken no known actions in response to the alleged Russian bounty operation.

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

But Trump was reportedly briefed on the subject in late February, when intelligence on the suspected Russian plot was included in his daily written brief. Trump, however, has garnered a reputation for not reading his daily briefings and for interrupting and lecturing those who brief him. 

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