House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday called on two top intelligence officials to provide a briefing to all members of Congress regarding reports that Russian intelligence has paid bounties to Taliban fighters to attack U.S. service members in Afghanistan.
“Congress needs to know what the intelligence community knows about this significant threat to American troops and our allies and what options are available to hold Russia accountable,” Pelosi wrote to John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence and Gina Haspel, the director of the CIA.
U.S. intelligence officials said that a unit of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the GRU, paid bounties to Taliban fighters to kill American and Western soldiers, The New York Times reported Friday.
The bounty program had resulted in some American deaths. Intelligence officers reportedly learned of the program through interviews of captured Taliban fighters, The Washington Post reported on Sunday. The New York Times reported that American currency was found at Taliban strongholds that was believed to have been used to pay the bounties.
The Times also initially reported that President Donald Trump and the National Security Council had been briefed on the intelligence in late March, though Trump, the White House and Ratcliffe disputed that the president was briefed on the matter.
Trump issued two denials about a briefing on Sunday, saying that neither he, Vice President Mike Pence or White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were briefed on the intelligence.
Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an “anonymous source” by the Fake News @nytimes. Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2020
It remains unclear why Trump would not have been briefed on the intelligence. John Bolton, the former national security adviser, said in an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that whether or not the president was briefed might depend on the level of confidence that intelligence officials had in the information.
“The questions that arise are: was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to Ratcliffe and Haspel.
She also accused Trump of failing to take action against the Russian government after other Russian aggression.
“The Administration’s disturbing silence and inaction endanger the lives of our troops and our coalition partners. The President’s refusal to stand up to the Russians also jeopardizes lives in the region, as the Afghan government and the United States are engaged in critical peace negotiations with the Taliban,” she wrote in the letter.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEneny said in an interview on Fox News on Monday that she would address the reports during a press briefing later in the day.
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