U.S. intelligence backpedaled Thursday on last summer’s reports of Russia placing bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers. 

A senior Biden administration official said the intelligence community only had “low to moderate” confidence in the Russian bounty story, meaning it is unproven and possibly untrue. 

The revelation came just as President Biden declared the Russia threat a “national emergency” and slapped new sanctions on Russian officials. The sanctions had been a result of meddling in the 2020 election, Russia’s alleged role in the SolarWinds hack and the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. 

“The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019, and perhaps earlier, including through financial incentives and compensation,” the official said. 

“U.S. intelligence community agencies have low to moderate confidence in this judgment in part because it relies on detainee reporting, and due to the challenging operating environment in Afghanistan, our conclusion is based on information and evidence of connections between criminal agents in Afghanistan and elements of the Russian government,” the official continued.

The Russian bounty story, first reported by the New York Times, ignited outrage during the heat of the 2020 election. President Trump had repeatedly cast doubt on the validity of the story that Russian officials had offered to pay Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers, calling it a “hoax.” Trump said he had not been briefed on the story before it was made public by the Times, as intelligence found “no consensus” on the matter. 

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“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party,” Trump tweeted last July. “The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself.” Trump called on the Times to reveal their source, claiming the story was “Just another HOAX!”

Lawmakers both Republican and Democrat demanded the Trump administration explain what it knew after the report broke. 

Then-candidate Biden had accused Trump of a “dereliction of duty” for not responding adequately to the report. 

Asked if Biden now regrets attacking Trump over the bounty story, White Hous press secretary Jen Psaki said that she was “not going to speak to the previous administration,” but reiterated there was “enough concern” to merit having intel “truly look into it.”

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As part of the Russia “national emergency,” the Department of State said it is expelling 10 officials from Russia’s bilateral mission. 

Reporting from the Washington Post indicated that Russian bounties are “believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members.” The Associated Press reported that officials said an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three Marines in Afghanistan is under investigation.

A senior U.S. official who has been briefed on the matter told Fox News last summer that the information that the National Security Council had received was based on “several streams of intelligence of concern” with some of it being contradictory and some open to interpretation.

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A separate source within the military told Fox News on Monday that special operations forces this year raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000, with a subsequent interrogation of an Afghan fighter revealing that the money came from Russia.

The source added, however, that the information was unable to be easily verified and the incident was not included in briefings to senior leaders at the Pentagon.

Source: FoxNews

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