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U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement Tuesday night that while the Pentagon has “no corroborating evidence” to support the explosive report last week that the Russian military was offering Taliban-linked militants bounties to kill American troops, he will continue to make sure any potential threat is taken seriously.

He said the Defense Department chain of command “and I are fully committed to ensuring American forces in the field have the best intelligence, weapons, equipment, protective gear, tactics, and all necessary authorities to deal with any threats they might face in order to ensure their safety and mission success.”

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The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, reported Friday that it is believed that some “Islamist militants” or “criminal elements” collected payouts. The report pointed out that 20 Americans were killed there in 2019. It was not clear if any of those deaths were the result of a bounty.

President Trump has denied any knowledge of the intelligence.

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @NYTimesbnooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad,” he tweeted Sunday.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday that Trump is the “most informed person on planet Earth” about the threats the U.S. faces.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told Fox News Radio Tuesday that it is unlikely Trump was briefed on the intelligence.

"What I do know is that whether or not the president was briefed, frankly, is irrelevant because the intelligence agencies could not yet agree on this," Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who attended a White House briefing on the matter, said. "If this is something, you need to have large agreement or at least [agreement] to a point of significant confidence to be able to take action. Otherwise, in theory, if it's not true and you're reacting against the Russians, think of the damage of that."

Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, was one of the Democrats who attended a briefing on the matter Tuesday. He said it was “inexplicable” why Trump won’t say publicly that he is working to get to the bottom of the issue and why he won’t call out Vladimir Putin. He said Trump’s defense that he hadn’t been briefed was inexcusable.

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“Many of us do not understand his affinity for that autocratic ruler who means our nation ill,” Schiff said.

Fox News' Yael Halon and the Associated Press contributed to this report

Edmund DeMarche is a senior news editor for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.

News Source: FOX News

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‘R Former CIA director explains why Trump’s ability to ‘create distractions’ is ‘right out of the authoritarian’s playbook’

When former CIA Director John O. Brennan appeared on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” on Monday night, July 6, host Lawrence O’Donnell asked him some very provocative questions: does Brennan see any similarity between the “propaganda style” of the Trump White House and some of the “authoritarian regimes” he has “studied around the world” — and does the Trump White House try to create “distractions” in a manner typical of such regimes? Brennan, without hesitation, responded that the parallels are impossible to miss.

“I have seen, observed this type of behavior in authoritarian leaders around the world for many, many years,” the 64-year-old Brennan told O’Donnell. “This is taken right out of the authoritarian’s playbook, which is that you try to create a distraction from the challenges and problems that you face on the domestic front. And sometimes, you point to other domestic issues, or you point to external enemies. And I think Donald Trump has had a history now — over the last three and half years — of being, unfortunately, masterful as far as trying to distract attention from the issues and the problems, many of which he has created or made worse.”

Brennan added, “Donald Trump is not only unable to address these issues, but just focuses on what he can do — what other new, shiny object he can throw in front of his base and the American public as a way to distract from those issues that really are challenging our safety, our security, and these days, our health.”

During the interview, O’Donnell also brought up allegations within the United States’ intelligence community that Russian government officials offered a bounty to Islamist Taliban fighters in Afghanistan if they would kill U.S. troops. And Brennan told the MSNBC host, “This intelligence appears to be very credible. That’s why it’s incumbent upon the White House, the National Security Council, the national security adviser to do everything possible to mitigate the threat to our troops.”

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