The New York Times story accusing Russia of offering bounties for killing US troops in Afghanistan relied on unconfirmed intelligence from an ongoing investigation, which is now impossible to finish, a congressman has revealed.
“The blood is on their hands,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana) tweeted on Monday, after attending a briefing with top intelligence officials at the White House. The Times, he said, “used unconfirmed intel in an ONGOING investigation into targeted killing of American soldiers in order to smear the President.”
Banks, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee as well as its Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities – presumably the reason he was invited to the briefing – said it was now “impossible to finish the investigation” due to the story, and all because the Times “will do anything to damage” President Donald Trump, even if it means compromising national security.
The story, which appeared in the Times on Friday evening, relied on anonymous sources claiming that Trump had been briefed in March about a Russian spy unit offering bounties for the death of US troops in Afghanistan to the Taliban or “armed criminal elements closely associated” with them.
Trump denied this, and denounced the story as “probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax.”
Indeed, it took no time at all for Trump’s critics to accuse him of being “Putin’s puppet” or “colluding” with Russia – same as they have for the past four years, through the evidence-free ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory.
Banks even brought that up in his Twitter thread, condemning “many in the media and Congress” for rushing to judgment and urging Americans to “treat anonymously sourced [Times] stories about Russia [with] skepticism.”
As if to prove his point, Banks received a flood of replies from online #Resistance activists accusing him of treason, being in the pay of Russia, and repeating Russiagate talking points.
Even though the Times story was filled with qualifiers such as “assessed” and “believed to” and “linked,” its basic claim was quickly adopted as established fact by other US media outlets, from the Washington Post and CNN onward.
That Moscow denied the whole thing as absolutely preposterous and pointed out it sounded tailor-made to derail the US withdrawal from a 19-year war in Afghanistan only made them believe it more. Nor was there any skepticism about the revelation that the story about the bounties was at least in part based on “confessions” of Afghan prisoners, presumably under torture.
Earlier on Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was barraged with questions not about the veracity of the Times report, but on why Trump hasn’t acted on the briefing he allegedly received. Her explanation that he was never briefed because the allegations amounted to unverified intelligence – just as Banks said – was met with indignation from reporters.
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