Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Russian government is working with the Afghan government, regional countries, and the Taliban to "gain increased influence in Afghanistan" and "expedite a U.S. military withdrawal," according to a Department of Defense report published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The report was released amid a mounting controversy over allegations that U.S. intelligence assessed that Russian operatives were paying bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops. President Trump has denied that he was briefed and tweeted Wednesday that the reports are a "Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party."

What's happening: Despite public denials, Russia has supported the Taliban politically to "cultivate influence with the group, limit the Western military presence, and encourage counter ISIS operations," the Pentagon wrote.

  • The report says Russia has supported a U.S.-Taliban agreement "in the hope that reconciliation will prevent a long-term U.S. military presence."
  • Russia has also been working to "address security challenges that might arise" from a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Go deeper: Trump's spy chief to brief Senate panel amid reports of Russian bounties

Go deeper

Blumenthal calls classified briefing on Russian interference "absolutely chilling"

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.) called on the Trump administration to declassify intelligence detailing Russian efforts to influence the 2020 elections, telling MSNBC on Sunday that the classified briefing lawmakers received about the Kremlin's activities last week was "absolutely chilling."

The big picture: National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said in a statement Friday that the Russian government is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate" Joe Biden ahead of the election. China and Iran would prefer that Trump is defeated, according to Evanina.

A quandary for state unemployment agencies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State agencies charged with paying unemployment benefits to jobless residents have their backs against the wall as they rush to parse President Trump's executive actions on coronavirus aid.

Why it matters: States are being asked to pitch in $100 per unemployed resident, but it’s a heavy lift for cash-strapped states that are still unclear about the details and may not opt-in at all. It leaves the states and jobless residents in a state of limbo.

Updated 26 mins ago - Health

New Zealand reports first local coronavirus cases for 102 days

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after a press conference at Parliament on July 22 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Auckland is locking down and the rest of New Zealand faces lesser restrictions for 72 hours after a family of four tested positive for COVID-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: It's the first cases not in managed isolation for 102 days, Ardern said at a news briefing.