Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
The Kremlin was secretly warned by the US State Department of potential blowback if it paid bounties for American troops killed in Afghanistan, people familiar with diplomatic channels said in a Daily Beast report published Wednesday.
At least two senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the communications told The Daily Beast that the warnings were conveyed after news of the alleged bounties became publicly known in late June.
The New York Times, which first covered the news, reported that a Russian military intelligence agency had paid bounties — as high as $100,000 — to Taliban insurgents for the killing of U.S. and NATO troops deployed to Afghanistan.
U.S. intelligence officials were reportedly investigating at least one attack that is partly linked to the alleged bounties: On April 8, 2019, three US Marines from the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division were killed after a roadside bomb detonated during a military convoy near Bagram Airfield, a major base in Afghanistan.
Taliban commanders confirmed that they were offered money and other support to attack U.S. troops, Business Insider previously reported. Russia's foreign ministry has denied involvement and described the allegations as “100% bulls—.”
Trump and his staff, who initially denied he was briefed about the matter, later went on to say that the intelligence he received was not credible. White House officials have continued to maintain that the intelligence they received was not concrete and did not rise to level of concern — that officials were in disagreement about the veracity of the evidence and its connection with Russia.
Trump reaffirmed a Defense Department message, saying in a tweet that there was “no corroborating evidence to back reports,” and that it was “all a made-up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican party.”
“I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level,” Trump added.
Trump, who has personally spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin multiple times after the intelligence on the Russian bounties circulated in his briefings, said in a recent interview with Axios that he had “never discussed it with him.”
“That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that's an issue that many people said was fake news,” Trump said during the interview.
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