Russian bounties

Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU, was founded a century ago under the leadership of the revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

Only in recent years has it come to the fore with a series of brazen actions. They include Russia's military operations in Ukraine and Syria and the hack of Democratic Party emails in the 2016 U.S. election.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper never received a briefing about alleged Russian practices against U.S. troops in Afghanistan that included the term "bounty," he told Congress on Thursday.

Esper said so in an answer to a carefully worded question from Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who appeared to be aware about how to cue Esper, potentially from the lawmaker's own awareness of the still-secret underlying intelligence about the Russian allegations.

"To the best of my recollection, I have not received a briefing that included the word 'bounty,' " Esper said.

"Fake." "Nonsense." "Lies."

The Kremlin reacted the same way the White House did to news reports that U.S. intelligence had allegedly found Russia offered bounties on American troops in Afghanistan.

Updated 4:37 p.m. ET

President Trump said Wednesday that reports of Russia paying bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill U.S. troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan is a hoax, even as his administration continues to brief members of Congress on the matter.

Updated at 9:51 p.m. ET

Members of Congress in both parties demanded answers on Monday about reported bounties paid by Russian operatives to Afghan insurgents for targeting American troops.

The stories appeared to have taken even the most senior lawmakers off guard, and they said they wanted briefings soon from the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

Updated 11:45 p.m. ET Monday

In a tweet late Sunday night, President Trump said the intelligence community told him he was not briefed about allegations that Russia had offered the Taliban bounty payments to kill Western forces — including U.S. troops — because it did not find the reports credible.