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Russian bounties: Pentagon vows ‘action’ if intel confirmed

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Top Pentagon officials pledged Thursday to “take action” if the US military could corroborate intelligence suggesting Moscow paid militants linked to the Taliban to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke before a congressional committee as the Trump administration comes under pressure to explain media reports claiming the president was briefed on the intelligence — but did nothing in response.

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Milley said the information was “not corroborated.”

“We’ll get to the bottom of it. We are going to find out if, in fact, it’s true. And if it is true, we will take action,” he continued, without specifying what kind of action might be taken.

Washington has known for years that Russia has been supporting the Afghan insurgents, including through arms shipments, Milley said.

But, in the case of the Russians, “we do not have concrete corroborating evidence, intelligence to show directing. That’s a big difference,” he said.

“All the defense intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate that report,” Esper agreed.

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Even so, he added: “The commanders take all reports seriously, regardless of the degree of credibility or confidence.”

The New York Times, followed by other US media, first reported on the intelligence last month.

The White House has said President Donald Trump was not briefed on the intelligence because it was unverified.

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But the Times, citing multiple officials, reported the intelligence was included in the written presidential daily brief back in February.

The newspaper reported that US intelligence officers and special forces in Afghanistan began raising the alarm as early as January, and that the National Security Council held an interagency meeting in late March to discuss possible responses — but the White House did not authorize any action.

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Russia and the Taliban have denied the claims.

The scandal comes with Trump trying to withdraw troops from conflict-torn Afghanistan — one of the Taliban’s key demands — and end America’s longest war.


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2020 Election

Brace yourself for months of lawlessness — ‘Election Night’ likely will not end until 2021

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There’s nothing wrong with treating American politics like a sport as long as everyone involved in the competition is playing the same sport by the same rules. There’s nothing wrong as long as both sides agree the rules are legitimate, both commit to obeying them and both accept the consequences when they break them.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

But there is a problem with treating American politics like a sport when one side is playing soccer and the other is playing football while neither can agree to the rules, because one side won’t commit to obeying them. There is something wrong when one side not only refuses to accept the consequences of rule-breaking but sets out to undermine the idea of rules altogether. In that case, treating politics like a sport, as the Washington press corps habitually does, isn’t helpful. It’s harmful. Even dangerous.

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2020 Election

‘Deranged’ Trump pummeled for lying that ‘practicing Catholic’ Joe Biden will ‘hurt God’

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President Donald Trump used a supposedly non-political event Thursday afternoon to attack his Democratic opponent with a lie, saying former Vice President Joe Biden will "hurt God" if elected.

In the strange pronouncement on the tarmac in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump falsely claimed that Biden will "take away your guns. Destroy your Second Amendment. No religion. No anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy."

A completely deranged Trump claims Joe Biden will "hurt God" if elected president pic.twitter.com/cJ8fbghmAm

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Trump’s special envoy to Iran quits

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The envoy leading President Donald Trump's hardline push on Iran quit on Thursday, months before an election that could reorient US policy.

Brian Hook, a stalwart Republican considered one of the most powerful figures at the State Department, decided to return to the private sector, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Hook "has achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime," Pompeo said in a statement.

Hook will be replaced by Elliott Abrams, another veteran Republican who was an intellectual architect of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has been leading Trump's unsuccessful campaign to oust Venezuela's leftist president, Nicolas Maduro.

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