The Washington Post fact-checker gave President Donald Trump “four Pinocchios” last year when he pushed back against claims that Russia was paying Taliban terrorist bounties to kill U.S. troops — a story now walked back by U.S. intelligence.
Last July, the New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence “concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops.” The story also claimed that the intelligence was “briefed to President Trump,” and that he had not done anything about it. The implication was that Trump did not want to hold Russia accountable, echoing “Russia collusion” claims.
However, Trump claimed that the story was a “hoax,” in that he had not been briefed about it. Conflicting reports emerged, suggesting that U.S. intelligence did not have enough confidence in the intelligence to present it to the president for action.
Nevertheless, the claim that Trump had ignored Russian bounties on U.S. troops became a staple of Democratic attacks. Joe Biden mentioned it in his town hall with ABC News; his running mate, Kamala Harris, cited the claim on the debate stage.
Washington Post fact-checker Salvador Rizzo gave Trump “four Pinocchios” for his denial — the most severe negative rating.
But the Daily Beast reported Thursday that U.S. intelligence officials have cast new doubt on the Russian bounties story, noting in a sub headline: “It was a huge election-time story that prompted cries of treason. Yet according to a newly disclosed assessment, Donald Trump might have been right to call it a “hoax.'”
The Daily Beast’s Adam Rawnsley explained further:
It was a blockbuster story about Russia’s return to the imperial “Great Game” in Afghanistan. The Kremlin had spread money around the longtime central Asian battlefield for militants to kill remaining U.S. forces. It sparked a massive outcry from Democrats and their #resistance amplifiers about the treasonous Russian puppet in the White House whose admiration for Vladimir Putin had endangered American troops.
But on Thursday, the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence only had “low to moderate” confidence in the story after all. Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue.
White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki declined Thursday to say whether Biden had been wrong to criticize Trump over the issue.
The Post has not yet updated its rating.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.