Sinclair national correspondent James Rosen is assisting President Donald Trump in his effort to dismiss reporting that Russia paid bounties to Taliban fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan and that he was briefed on it as early as March of last year, which the president has repeatedly called a “hoax.” Rosen produced three reports on this story, all of which downplayed the intelligence reports in some way.
The New York Times first reported on June 26 that “American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there.” The report also stated that “the intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March.” The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post both confirmed the story after the Times published its report, and the Post also reported on June 28 that the Russian bounties “are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members.” On June 29, CNN reported that the intelligence “was included in one of [Trump's] daily briefings on intelligence matters sometime in the spring.” The Associated Press reported the same day that “top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019” of intelligence on Russian bounties and “the assessment was included in at least one of [Trump’s] written daily intelligence briefings at the time.” The AP also reported that “then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.”
Since the story broke, Trump has been denying both the intelligence analysis of the bounty claims and the reporting that he was briefed on it. The Trump administration has gone as far as producing a likely politicized review of the intelligence assessment.
Rosen’s three reports on these developments have all helped Trump in his efforts to dismiss the story. His first report, which aired on June 29 and was broadcast on at least 42 Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned or -operated stations in 35 states, pushed Trump administration claims that the intelligence was unreliable and that Trump wasn’t briefed. Rosen even quoted -- anonymously -- a Republican lawmaker calling the reporting “‘fake news,’ part of a long-standing effort to portray President Trump as weak in the face of Russian aggressions.”
Rosen’s June 30 report, which broadcast on at least 38 Sinclair stations in 29 states, continued pushing the Republican narrative that Democrats were interested in the reports only because of Trump’s friendly relationship with Russia’s leader, and the Sinclair segment also quoted Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe criticizing news organizations for reporting on the intelligence claims.
Rosen’s third report on this story, which aired on July 1 on at least 35 Sinclair stations in 33 states, went even further in helping Trump dismiss the story. Rosen quoted a White House official -- again, anonymously -- calling the information reported in the first Times story “junk intelligence” and emphasizing that the leak was a crime. Rosen then suggested that the reporting was false because this classified information that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban didn’t appear in the State Department’s publicly released 2019 country report on terrorism.
Rosen’s Sinclair reports might as well have been dictated by the Trump administration. He did all he could to push Trump’s repeated claims that the reporting is a “hoax” (though he didn't actually mention that Trump called it that, as far back as June 28).
Rosen’s June 30 report also portrayed the reporting that Trump was previously briefed on the intelligence as a “he said, she said” conflict between Trump and The New York Times, even though several other news organizations had confirmed the reporting by then. Additionally, Rosen ignored reporting that British security officials were recently briefed on the intelligence because their troops were also targeted and confirmed “that the reports about the plot are true.”
These three reports from Sinclair’s Rosen are just the latest in his series of televised news segments that cover for President Trump and his administration on various controversies and scandals, which are then disseminated via Sinclair to local television stations nationwide.