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Trump Explains Intelligence on Alleged Russian Bounties Was Never Worthy of Presidential Attention

July 2, 2020 (EIRNS)—President Donald Trump yesterday called the New York Times narrative that claims that Russian military intelligence paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan a hoax, telling Fox Business News in an interview yesterday that the so-called intelligence never rose to the level of the President’s attention. “We never heard about it because intelligence never found it to be of that level” at which it would be brought to the President, he said. “From what I hear, and I hear it pretty good, the intelligence people, many of them, didn’t believe that it happened at all,” Trump continued. “I think it’s a hoax. I think it’s a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats.... I agree with the intelligence people ... and if it did happen, the Russians would hear about it and anybody else would hear about it that was involved.”

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said in an interview with Fox News that it was the CIA official who briefs Trump in person who decided not to tell Trump about the alleged intelligence on the Russian bounties. “The President’s career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence,” O’Brien said, and stressing that she is “an outstanding officer.”

“We get raw intelligence and tactical intelligence every day, hundreds of pieces of intelligence come in every day, thousands of pieces of intelligence come in a week,” he said. “She made that call and, you know what, I think she made the right call, so I’m not going to criticize her. And knowing the facts that I know now, I stand behind that call.”

O’Brien told reporters he believes the CIA filed a “crimes report” with the Justice Department regarding the leak, a statement which the DOJ declined to comment on.

Meanwhile, doubts continue to pile up about the “intelligence” that the New York Times claims are based on. Joseph V. Micallef, a military history author and veteran of the Afghan war offers what he calls an alternative explanation in an op-ed published yesterday by Military.com. “A scrutiny of the evidence, what little there is, however, raises some serious doubts,” he writes. He cites the Times claim that the recovery of a large amount of cash during a raid on a Taliban output as prompting suspicions that bounties were being paid.

“Frankly, that’s a nonsensical conclusion. Having spent time in Afghanistan, I can attest from experience that the U.S. dollar is the currency of choice among Afghans. The country has been flooded with dollars since the U.S. intervention in 2001, when CIA operatives famously used million-plus-dollar cash bribes to flip Afghan warlords against the Taliban and to support the U.S. invasion,” Micallef writes. “Moreover, the Taliban has evolved a far-ranging web of criminal activities that are believed to bring in upwards of $2 billion a year. Most of that activity, as is true for most international crime, is conducted in U.S. dollars. No self-respecting Afghan warlord, Taliban or other, would be without his stash of American dollars. In Afghanistan that’s not the exception, it’s the rule.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, writing in a column posted today by antiwar.com, reminds his readers of the record of New York Times reporter David Sanger. McGovern writes that “Intelligence analysts must pay close attention, of course, to provenance. What is this or that source’s record for accuracy, for reliability. What kind of trough might this or that source be feeding from; and what agenda might she or he have? Discriminating readers of the corporate media—and especially the Times—should do the same with respect to journalists. When they see the byline of David Sanger they need to examine his record.” David Sanger, McGovern points out, has a record of dubious reporting going back to the Iraq WMD story, in which he repeatedly cited unverified intelligence as flat fact, intelligence that later turned out to be completely false.

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