Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstWhere things stand in 13 battleground states OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee MORE (R-Iowa) told reporters Tuesday that bombshell media reports that Russia’s military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. service members is “absolutely inaccurate,” making the claim after she and other Republicans were briefed at the White House.
“I think that reporting was absolutely inaccurate. I had a briefing this morning and I know that the evidence is not corroborated,” she said, emphasizing that she was putting “evidence” in air quotes.
“We take threats seriously. At the tactical level, obviously making sure our positions are hardened and we’re watching out for adversaries,” she added.
Ernst was one of about a half dozen Republican senators who were briefed by Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTop intelligence officials release statements criticizing leaking of Russian bounties information Russian bounty intel was included in Trump’s daily briefing: reports Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops MORE, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTop intelligence officials release statements criticizing leaking of Russian bounties information GOP senator: Congress must find out what Trump knew of Russian bounties, and when Comer tapped to serve as top Republican on House Oversight MORE and other members of the intelligence community Tuesday morning at the White House, according to persons familiar with the meeting.
She described the briefing as “very informative” and reiterated “the reporting in that article was very inaccurate,” apparently referring to The New York Times article that broke news of the bounties Friday.
She also said information about threats faced by U.S. troops in Afghanistan is being politicized by Democrats.
“The Democrats are really making a big deal of this. They had access to that same sort of information months ago,” she said.
Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police The Memo: GOP cringes at new Trump race controversy MORE (R-Fla.) and Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: With coronavirus cases surging, lawmakers and health officials weigh in The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – As virus concerns grow, can it get worse for Trump? GOP senator blasts Washington officials, claims DC would not be a ‘well-rounded working-class state’ MORE (R-Ark.), a leading Senate voice on defense issues, were among the Republicans who attended the White House briefing.
Rubio later told reporters that he thinks media reports about classified intelligence are often inaccurate, though he declined to comment on the details reported in recent stories about Russia offering bounties on U.S. troops.
“I think almost every report on purported intelligence information is inaccurate, not because reporters are wrong but because it misunderstands the purpose of intelligence products. There’s a big difference between analysis and raw intelligence and it’s a point that I think is often missed,” he said.
But Rubio acknowledged “there are groups in Afghanistan that we know — and in other places like Iraq and in Syria — that we know target Americans.”
“They may very well at times be acting as proxies on behalf of foreign adversaries and that’s a well-established fact,” he added. “Congressional leaders knew this, have known this or should have known this for a very long time.”