Moscow money for American lives?
Politics | Congress demands answers on the report of Russian bounties
by Harvest Prude
Posted 7/01/20, 04:26 pm
WASHINGTON—Lawmakers want to know what the president knew and when about a report that a Russian spy unit allegedly backed violence toward U.S. troops by Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
On Friday, The New York Times reported Russian spies offered bounties to the Taliban for killing coalition forces, including U.S. troops. The Times attributed the report to American intelligence officials who spoke anonymously.
Democrats returning from a White House briefing on the matter on Tuesday complained the meeting lacked substance. Other lawmakers have called for new sanctions and military retaliation against Russia.
“I want to hear their plan for Taliban and [Russian military] agents in body bags,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., told Politico.
Some Islamist terrorists are believed to have collected bounty money, according to the Times. Twenty Americans died in combat last year in Afghanistan, though it is not known which of the deaths might have been associated with the agreement with Russia. The unnamed intelligence officials said the spy unit is likely the same one linked to the March 2018 nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England.
The Times also reported that intelligence officials gave President Donald Trump a written briefing on the issue in February, but the administration said the president was not personally briefed about the matter. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the information the Times obtained was not “verified” because there was “not a consensus among the intelligence community.”
“I want to understand how it’s conceivably possible that the president didn’t know,” Sasse told Politico. “How does that possibly happen?”
Following Tuesday’s meeting with Democrats, the White House gathered Republicans for a separate briefing from several administration officials. Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said in a joint statement they “remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan.”
Democrats have demanded a full report to Congress from intelligence officials.
“The right people to give the briefing really were not in the room,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
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