Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday during the vice presidential debate relied on a report the Pentagon has said is uncorroborated to claim President Trump does not care about troops.
“Take — and this is –this is very important when you want to talk about who is the current commander-in-chief and what they care about and what they don’t care about, public reporting that Russia had bounties on the heads of American soldiers,” Harris said.
“And you know what a bounty is? It’s somebody puts a price on your head and they will pay it if you are killed. And Donald Trump had talked at least six times to Vladimir Putin and never brought up the subject. Joe Biden would never do that,” she said.
Harris was referring to reporting from the New York Times in July 2020 where anonymous “officials” claimed that the U.S. government had received intelligence that Russia had put bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and did nothing about it.
The Pentagon disputed the report in an on-the-record statement. Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement (emphasis added):
The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.
Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan – and around the world – most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.
In addition, Central Command Commander Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie has also said on-the-record that by September, the intelligence had still not been corroborated. He told NBC News in an interview, “It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me.”
“We continue to look for that evidence,” he added. “I just haven’t seen it yet. But … it’s not a closed issue.”
Despite the intelligence not being corroborated, Democrats have continued to use the report repeatedly throughout the presidential campaign to attack Trump.
Pence disputed that the president does not care about the military.
“My son is a captain in the United States Marine Corps. My son-in-law is deployed in the United States Navy. I can assure all of you with sons and daughters serving in our military that President Donald Trump not only respects but reveres all of those who served in our armed forces, and any suggestion otherwise is ridiculous,” he responded.