Congressional leaders have demanded answers, and those answers have come in the form of multiple US intelligence agencies and chiefs essentially throwing cold water on the NY Times Russian bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan story, as we've detailed.
We expect this "bombshell" will be very short-lived, perhaps being memory holed by the weekend, akin to the fate of other Russiagate-related 'anonymous sources say' type stories.
The Pentagon is the latest to say that DOD-wide there is currently "no corroborating evidence at this time to validate the recent allegations regarding malight activity by Russian personnel against US forces in Afghanistan," according to a late Tuesday evening statement by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
I want to assure all of our service members that we take seriously any and all potential threats against U.S. military personnel. pic.twitter.com/Tcg3xzkZQ8— @EsperDoD (@EsperDoD) July 1, 2020
And yet the Times is busy publishing photos of slain Marines to help bolster what's increasingly looking like a propaganda hit piece ahead of the November election, for which there's already been considerable backlash from the public.
As of Wednesday it's been revealed that a highly respected career intelligence officer previously made the decision to not brief President Trump on what the Washington Post now belatedly admits was widely "deemed sketchy" information the CIA had obtained in 2019 through either a foreign source or report.
This line from the Post is certainly awkward for them and the Times:
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that White House officials were first informed in early 2019 of intelligence reports that Russia was offering the bounties to kill U.S. and coalition military personnel, but the information was deemed sketchy and in need of additional confirmation, according to people familiar with the matter.
National security adviser Robert O'Brien said in a Wednesday FOX interview, reported by WaPo that it's "another false story."
"The president was not briefed because at the time of these allegations they were uncorroborated," he said. "As a result, the president's career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence, and by the way, she's an outstanding officer, and knowing all the facts I know, I certainly support her decision."
And further WaPo describes in a story it had a hand in pushing alongside the Times:
The agenda for the oral briefing is often worked out in advance with the national security adviser, with input from the Director of National Intelligence and CIA director, said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the briefing process, who requested anonymity to discuss matters not in the public view.
O'Brien said leaks to the media about the episode have hampered U.S. intelligence officials from determining what actually happened.
"Sadly because of the leak, it may now become impossible ever to get to the bottom of this, to get to the truth of the matter, and that's one of the very sad things," he said. "We were working very hard on this matter. It might be impossible to get to the bottom of it because someone decided to leak to hurt the president rather than uphold their obligations to the American people."
Days ago CIA Director Gina Haspel said something similar.
Trump Calls Bounty Report A 'Hoax' Despite Administration's Briefing Of Congress https://t.co/HgoZ8kBlMm— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) July 1, 2020
Instead of "confirming" the original Times reporting, the CIA chief did quite the opposite, targeting the leaker or leakers for playing politics with cherry-picked unvetted intelligence.
Again, at this point this non-story looks to be dead by the weekend as it's already unraveled. But we won't hold our breath for the NY Times retraction or any level of mea culpa anytime soon.