White House Dismisses Reports of Bounties, but Is Silent on Russia

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“I’m interested in hearing the administration speak clearly about their plans that aren’t just hypothetical sanctions sometime out in the future,” said Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, said a briefing for Senate Armed Services Committee members had little value because the Pentagon had sent officials who lacked detailed knowledge. For example, she said, the briefers had not even seen all of the documents in the intelligence file, which senators had separately been able to read, and did not know whether any casualties in Afghanistan were now being studied as possible bounty killings.

The Times has reported that investigators are said to be focused on at least two attacks on American troops in Afghanistan, including one bombing and a firefight in April 2019 near Bagram Air Base that killed three Marines.

“It really didn’t answer the questions we had,” Ms. Duckworth said.

With lawmakers in both parties asking for more information, Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, and Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, the head of the National Security Agency, along with Mr. Ratcliffe, were scheduled to deliver on Thursday the highest-level briefing yet about the American intelligence to a select group of bipartisan House and Senate leaders, known as the Gang of Eight.

Asked on Wednesday about the Russian bounties, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. intelligence officials “handled this incredibly well” to minimize risk to American troops in Afghanistan. He also said that it would be “nothing new” if Russia undermined American in Afghanistan, noting that the Taliban had long received funding from foreign nations, including Russia and Iran.

Mr. Pompeo refused to directly address whether Mr. Trump should have been told about intelligence indicating the Russian bounty offers.

During a visit to Arizona on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence demurred when asked about the matter. ”I was never briefed about that matter,” he said, “and I’m not going to discuss classified materials.”

Nicholas Fandos, Adam Goldman, Lara Jakes and Charlie Savage contributed reporting.