Sullivan disparages NYT report that Russia paid Taliban bounties to kill Americans

Sen. Dan Sullivan. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is casting doubt on a New York Times report that Russia paid the Taliban to kill American troops.

“When I read that, of course, as someone who’s deployed Afghanistan myself as a U.S. Marine, I was certainly committed to digging very deep into what would be the truth of that,” he said Wednesday in a telephonic town hall with constituents. “The New York Times, let’s just say, doesn’t always get the story right.”

The Times reported last week that the White House was debating what to do about the intelligence reports and recently shared information about them with the British government.

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President Trump has repeatedly said he was not aware of the intelligence reports, which the White House called unverified.

Sullivan said Wednesday he attended top secret briefings on the matter. He said there was no consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies on key elements, such as “whether this was even happening, whether it was directed by senior Russians, and some of the very significant agencies – intel agencies, spy agencies – dissent from the entire conclusion.”

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., is a former CIA analyst who presented intelligence briefings to presidents Bush and Obama. She told NPR that previous presidents would have been briefed on a matter like this, even if some of the spy agencies disagreed.

“There may have been, and may still be, some real debate among the intelligence community about this intelligence. I’d like to hear that from them,” she said Tuesday. “But either way, it was hard for me to understand why this hadn’t been a topic of conversation that was brought up with the president directly.”

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The New York Times, in another story this week, said intercepted bank records support the allegation that Russia paid Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops.

The paper, along with The Washington Post and CNN, is a target of frequent attacks from President Trump and other Republicans.