'Congress and the country need answers now': Pelosi demands briefing on reported Russian bounty operation




  • In Business
  • 2020-06-29 14:51:41Z
  • By USA TODAY
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\'Congress and the country need answers now\': Pelosi demands briefing on reported Russian bounty operation  

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded a briefing from leaders of the U.S. intelligence community on reports that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban for killing American troops in Afghanistan.

"Congress and the country need answers now," Pelosi, D-Calif, wrote in a letter Monday to President Donald Trump's CIA director and his Director of National Intelligence.

Pelosi said she wants to know whether Trump was briefed on the intelligence assessment "and if not, why not."

"... 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," the speaker wrote.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News that members of Congress would be briefed later Monday, but she did not say whether it would be open to all House members, as Pelosi has called for.

Trump denied on Sunday that he had been briefed on the Russian bounty operation, which was first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by multiple other news outlets, including the Associated Press. Trump has tried to cast doubt on the stories.

"Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP," the president tweeted on Sunday night, referring to Vice President Mike Pence. "Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News ... wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!"

McEnany said on Fox News that intelligence "only goes to the president and the high-level officials when it is deemed as verifiable and credible. So I think it'll clear up a lot when members of Congress are briefed today."

Lawmakers in both parties are demanding more information and answers from the Trump administration on what the White House knew and why no action has been taken to punish Russia.

Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the House Republican leadership, said in a tweet Sunday that if the report is accurate, "the White House must explain" why the president and vice president were not briefed on the matter and "what has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?"

In its story on Friday, the Times reported that Russian military intelligence officials offered Taliban-connected militants bounties for killing American and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The Times story also reported that top White House officials were briefed on the matter in late March and Trump was also informed.

It's not clear if the Russian operation resulted in the deaths of American troops. The Associated Press reported that intelligence officials are investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armored vehicles as they traveled back to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan.

Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the attack, along with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The officials the AP spoke to also said they were looking closely at insider attacks - sometimes called "green-on-blue" incidents - from 2019 to determine if they are also linked to Russian bounties.

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

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Russian bounty on US troops: Pelosi demands intelligence briefing

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