Russian bounty on US troops: Pelosi calls for intelligence briefing

Stan Smith / June 28,2020
Russian bounty on US troops: Pelosi calls for intelligence briefing

CLOSE Pelosi calls for intelligence briefing

President Trump denies figuring out about an intelligence report that mentioned Russia paid a bounty to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The White Home briefed a choose group of lawmakers Monday on intelligence reviews that Russia offered bounties to Taliban militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, amid rising questions in Congress concerning the administration’s obvious inaction on the matter.

Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Chief Chuck Schumer demanded a categorized briefing for all Home and Senate members Monday, whereas the White Home downplayed the intelligence evaluation and mentioned President Donald Trump had not been briefed on the matter as a result of it had not been absolutely verified. 

“Congress and the nation want solutions now,” Pelosi, D-Calif, wrote in a letter Monday to Trump’s CIA director and his Director of Nationwide Intelligence. 

Pelosi and different lawmakers, together with some Republicans, mentioned they wish to know why Trump was not briefed on the intelligence evaluation and what steps the U.S. can take to punish Moscow for concentrating on American troops.   

“What we’re speaking about right here is placing the goal crosshairs on the backs of American servicemen and ladies in uniform,” mentioned Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sasse mentioned Congress needs to be targeted on two questions:  “No. 1, Who knew what, when, and did the commander-in-chief know? And if not, how the hell not?”

Rep. Andy Kim, a New Jersey Democrat who sits on the Home Armed Companies Committee, additionally mentioned the essential query is whether or not Trump knew or not.

“Both he did find out about it and he is mendacity, or his administration has de-prioritized one thing that places American individuals’s lives – our servicemembers’ lives – in danger,” Kim mentioned. “I believe it is extremely damaging that the president is saying that he did not find out about this.” 

White Home press secretary Kayleigh McEnany mentioned the White Home invited eight lawmakers from the related congressional committees to a briefing on Monday. It was not clear if any Democrats had been invited or attended.

Rep. Jim Banks, who serves on the Armed Companies Committee – publicly confirmed that he participated. After the briefing, Banks blasted the media for disclosing the intelligence, saying the New York Occasions, which first reported the story, may have blood on their hands for disrupting an investigation into the Russian operation. 

“The true scandal: We’ll doubtless by no means know the reality… As a result of the @nytimes used unconfirmed intel in an ONGOING investigation into focused killing of American troopers with a view to smear the President. The blood is on their arms,” Banks, who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and deployed to Afghanistan, wrote on Twitter.

Late Monday,CIA Director Gina Haspel and Trump’s Director of Nationwide Intelligence John Ratcliffe each issued uncommon public statements on the matter.

Ratcliffe blasted what he referred to as the “selective leaking of any categorized data” and urged the media reviews on the alleged Russian operation had interfered with efforts to probe additional into the matter. 

“We’re nonetheless investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in latest media reporting and we’ll transient the president and congressional leaders on the applicable time,” Ratcliffe mentioned. “Sadly, unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our capacity to ever discover out the complete story with respect to those allegations.”

Haspel equally mentioned that leaks “compromise and disrupt” intelligence analysts’ capacity to “acquire, assess, and ascribe culpability.”

Whereas not commenting immediately on the Russia intelligence, she defended the intelligence group’s dealing with of the problem, together with reviews that U.S. officers had briefed allied nations whereas probably not briefing the president.

“When growing intelligence assessments, preliminary tactical reviews usually require extra assortment and validation,” Haspel mentioned. “Typically, preliminary pressure safety data is shared all through the nationwide safety group – and with U.S. allies – as a part of our ongoing efforts to make sure the protection of coalition forces abroad.”

After talking with Haspel and Ratcliffe, Pelosi mentioned she nonetheless had “many critical questions” about what the White Home is doing to handle threats from Russia and maintain Moscow accountable. 

Trump denied on Sunday that he had been briefed on the Russian bounty operation, which a number of information retailers, together with the Related Press, have confirmed for the reason that Occasions revealed its story on Friday. Trump has tried to solid doubt on the tales.

“Intel simply reported to me that they didn’t discover this information credible, and due to this fact didn’t report it to me or @VP,” the president tweeted on Sunday night time, referring to Vice President Mike Pence. “Presumably one other fabricated Russia Hoax, possibly by the Faux Information … eager to make Republicans look unhealthy!!!”

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the report.

“These claims are nothing however lies,” mentioned Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, in accordance with Tass, a Russian information company. Peskov echoed Trump’s Twitter submit, saying the New York Occasions is thought for publishing “elaborate hoaxes.” 

Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., wears a face masks as she arrives to talk at a information convention on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 26, 2020. (Picture: Carolyn Kaster, AP)

When requested if the intelligence was included within the president’s written day by day briefing, McEnany responded: “He was not personally briefed on the matter.”  

She mentioned Trump was not instructed concerning the intelligence findings as a result of some intelligence officers questioned the evaluation. 

“There was not a consensus among the many intelligence group, and actually, there have been dissenting opinions throughout the intelligence group,” she mentioned. “And it will not be elevated to the president till it was verified.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Home Intelligence Committee, questioned that clarification. Presidents are regularly briefed on intelligence that’s not rock stable – with analysts explaining how a lot confidence they’ve within the data – so “the president can consider the importance of it but in addition requested for extra data,” Schiff mentioned in an interview with CNN on Monday. 

This report specifically ought to have been flagged for Trump due to the significance of U.S.-Russian relations and the potential menace to American navy personnel, he mentioned. “If it goes to the safety of our troops, that is one thing that must be briefed to the commander-in-chief,” Schiff instructed CNN. 

An aide to Home Majority Chief Steny Hoyer, D-Md., mentioned he can be bringing a handful of Democrats to the White Home on Tuesday morning for a briefing. However Hoyer is continuous to press the White Home for a full congressional briefing, mentioned his aide, who was not approved to talk publicly on the state of affairs.

Democrats weren’t alone in elevating questions on how the White Home dealt with the Russian bounty reviews.

Republican Sen. Todd Younger, who sits on the Senate Overseas Relations Committee, mentioned he was “alarmed” that Trump, Pence and high lawmakers in Congress weren’t briefed on the intelligence data. Younger urged intelligence officers needs to be held “accountable for his or her gross negligence” for failing to alert the president, and he referred to as for congressional hearings to probe the Russia allegations.

“We should work to establish the reliability of media reviews and, the place crucial, advance accountability inside our personal authorities and facilitate a punishing response to the seemingly immoral, unlawful, and unconscionable actions of the dictator who lords over the Russian individuals,” Younger, of Indiana, mentioned in a press release Monday.

Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the Home Republican management, mentioned in a tweet Sunday that if the report is correct, “the White Home should clarify” why the president and vice chairman weren’t briefed on the matter and “what has been achieved in response to guard our forces & maintain Putin accountable?”

In its story on Friday, the Occasions reported that Russian navy intelligence officers supplied Taliban-connected militants bounties for killing American and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The Occasions story additionally reported that high White Home officers had been briefed on the matter in late March and Trump was additionally knowledgeable.

It isn’t clear if the Russian operation resulted within the deaths of American troops. The Related Press reported that intelligence officers are investigating an April 2019 assault on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines after a automobile rigged with explosives detonated close to their armored automobiles as they traveled again to Bagram Airfield, the most important U.S. navy set up in Afghanistan.

Three different U.S. service members had been wounded within the assault, together with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban claimed accountability for the assault on Twitter. The officers the AP spoke to additionally mentioned they had been trying intently at insider assaults — typically referred to as “green-on-blue” incidents — from 2019 to find out if they’re additionally linked to Russian bounties.

Trump has pushed to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan amid a peace settlement with the Taliban. 

Contributing: Maureen Groppe, the Related Press

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