President Joe Biden’s White House continued using largely debunked reports of Russia paying bounties to the Taliban on Thursday to defend new sanctions on Russia.
The Biden administration walked back their confidence in the reports, according to the Daily Beast, after investigating the claim.
“The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks [on] U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier,” a senior administration official said.
But in a document sent to reporters, the White House used the claim to defend another round of sanctions against Russia, citing “the best assessments from the intelligence community.”
“The Administration is responding to the reports that Russia encouraged Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan based on the best assessments from the Intelligence Community,” the release read.
The Biden administration announced that the United States would expel ten personnel from the Russian diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., including representatives of Russian intelligence.
Other reasons for sanctions included the SolarWinds hack and interference in American and other democratic elections.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the administration’s decision to cite the reports in their sanctions announcement.
“So while there is low to moderate assessment of these reports, we felt it was important for our intelligence community to look into it,” she said.
When asked if Biden regretted using the questionable claim to attack former President Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential campaign, Psaki demurred.
“I will not speak to the previous administration,” she said.
Former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah recalled working to refute the story that spread like wildfire during the presidential campaign.
“We repeatedly told the public this story was unverified and unproven,” Farah wrote on social media, noting National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien denied the report on camera. “I saw the intel. The media failed on the reporting around this and the public was misled.”