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'POSSIBLY ANOTHER FABRICATED RUSSIA HOAX': Three days after the news first broke in the New York Times, President Trump says the reason he was never briefed on intelligence that the Taliban have been paid by Russia to target U.S. troops in Afghanistan is that his advisers don't believe the intelligence is accurate.

"Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or VP," Trump tweeted last night. "Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!"

Earlier in the evening, National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot told the Washington Examiner that Trump had not been briefed because of a lack of consensus within the intelligence community, adding that "the veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated."

MULTIPLE REPORTS: While Trump singled out the New York Times, the story was quickly matched by other major news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Fox News.

In fact, Trump's tweet was in response to one by his reliable supporter, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who himself was reacting to a Fox News report. "Imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports that Russian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Taliban to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region," Graham tweeted.

Comment: Soulless hacks like Graham know that just repeating the allegation is enough - damage done. They know the reports are fake. They just use them for cheap but effective propaganda purposes.

While most reports said it was unclear whether any U.S. troops were killed at the behest of Russia's covert operatives, the Washington Post said Russian bounties "are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months."

The newspaper also said the intelligence led to "a restricted high-level White House meeting in late March," which "led to broader discussions" that included U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who advocated confronting the Russians.

WHO DIDN'T KNOW, AND WHEN DIDN'T THEY KNOW IT? On Saturday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who has been on the job for one month, said reports that Trump knew about the intelligence were inaccurate. "I have confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday," he tweeted.

Richard Grenell, Ratcliffe's predecessor, in response to a tweet by California Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu, said the intelligence was also news to him, indicating it wasn't solid enough to be brought to his attention. "I never heard this. And it's disgusting how you continue to politicize intelligence," he tweeted. "You clearly don't understand how raw intel gets verified. Leaks of partial information to reporters from anonymous sources is dangerous because people like you manipulate it for political gain."

On Twitter, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-highest-ranking member of the House GOP leadership, said she still has questions.

"If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren't the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?" she tweeted.

Comment: See how easy it is? "If the reporting is true." There's no reason to suggest it is, so all of the above speculating is worse than useless. "If it's true that X eats babies, what is being done to hold X accountable??"

CALL FOR HEARINGS: Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is on Joe Biden's short list of possible running mates, immediately issued a call for Senate hearings in a letter to Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.

"I request that the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hold an open hearing as soon as possible to examine the stunning revelations that ... President Trump failed to authorize any action in response to the [Russian military intelligence service] covertly providing bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan."

Comment: There's a special place in hell for shameless hucksters like Duckworth.

"I ask that SASC hold an open hearing to receive testimony from the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Commander of the Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces-Afghanistan," she wrote. "SASC should also hold a closed hearing in a sensitive compartmented information facility to allow for discussion of classified information."
Good Monday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre's Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by David Sivak and Tyler Van Dyke. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn't work, shoot us an email and we'll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.