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Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe is scheduled to provide a closed-door briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday amid allegations that Russian operatives paid Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a spokesman for acting committee chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Why it matters: The allegations that top officials at the White House were aware of intelligence that U.S. troops were being targeted by Russia have prompted bipartisan outcry. GOP lawmakers Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) are among those demanding answers.

Between the lines: Ratcliffe was set to come before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a general oversight hearing before the New York Times broke the Russia story, according to two sources familiar with the committee's plans.

  • The White House is also in the process of scheduling a briefing for the Gang of Eight, which may result in the 2 p.m. Senate Intel hearing being postponed, one of the sources said.
  • A spokesman for House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) declined to comment on whether Ratcliffe plans to brief their committee.

The big picture: Lawmakers from both parties were briefed separately on the Russian bounty intelligence on Monday and Tuesday and came away with varying responses.

  • Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), one of the lawmakers briefed by the White House, accused the Times of engineering a "hit piece" against President Trump and compromising national security by publishing unverified intelligence.
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that sentiment at a briefing on Tuesday, suggesting that the Times and "rogue intelligence officers" are undermining Trump and the security of U.S. troops.
  • Trump has denied being briefed on the intelligence and has suggested that it's "another fabricated Russia Hoax." McEnany reiterated that denial at Tuesday's press briefing, but would not comment on a report from the Times that the intelligence was included in Trump's written Presidential Daily Brief in February.

The other side: Democrats briefed by the White House have shot down Trump's suggestion that the reports are a "hoax" and have called for the intelligence community to brief all members of Congress.

  • "Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday. "There may be different judgments as to the level of credibility, but there was no assertion that the information we had was a hoax."

Go deeper

Updated Oct 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trumpworld coronavirus tracker

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

An outbreak of COVID-19 has struck the White House — including the president himself — just weeks before the 2020 election.

Why it matters: If the president can get infected, anyone can. And the scramble to figure out the scope of this outbreak is a high-profile, high-stakes microcosm of America's larger failures to contain the virus and to stand up a contact-tracing system that can respond to new cases before they have a chance to become outbreaks.

Oct 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Barr tells Republicans Durham report won't be ready by election

Barr at the White House Sept. 26. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr has begun telling top Republicans that the Justice Department’s sweeping review into the origins of the Russia investigation will not be released before the election, a senior White House official and a congressional aide briefed on the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans had long hoped the report, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, would be a bombshell containing revelations about what they allege were serious abuses by the Obama administration and intelligence community probing for connections between President Trump and Russia.

Oct 8, 2020 - World

Trump admin plans to reduce U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by 2021

An Afghan border forces soldier stands guard at a U.S. forces base, which has been handed over to Afghan border forces in Dih Bala district of Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan, inj July. Photo: Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua via Getty Images

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday the U.S. would cut its number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early 2021, per Reuters.

Details: "When President Trump took office, there were over 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan," O’Brien said at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, event. "As of today there are under 5,000 and that will go to 2,500 by early next year."