Mutiny on the bounties: Trump balks at briefing House members on Russian perfidy

June 30, 2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for the Trump Administration to brief all House members immediately about allegations that surfaced on June 27–detailing that Russians have been paying Afghan militants to assassinate U.S. soldiers, Politico reports.

Most recently, President Donald Trump has claimed that he knows nothing about the disclosures—and that he and Vice President Mike Pence never have been briefed on the matter by U.S. intelligence agencies. He has not said that he intends to follow up on the accusations against Russia and, by extension, against President Vladimir Putin—which he does not believe to be credible.

However, The New York Times has countered that story, saying that senior White House and intelligence officials knew about the bounty allegations since at least March but took no action.

Indeed, the Times has reported that Trump was briefed on the matter and that it was included in his Presidential Daily Brief, but Trump denied ever learning of the intelligence and late Sunday said his leaders in the intelligence community told him it wasn’t credible.

“The questions that arise are: Was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed? Congress and the country need answers now,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel. “I therefore request an interagency brief for all House Members immediately. 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.”

Since the news reports emerged, Politico reports, Democrats and some Republicans have been demanding details from the Administration. Early Monday, congressional aides indicated no briefing had been set up for the House intelligence, armed services or foreign affairs committee. It’s unclear if the Gang of Eight—the leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the intelligence committee—will be briefed, but as of Monday morning there was no meeting scheduled, per a congressional source.

The new allegations —which The New York Times and The Washington Post reported may have led to the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan—have once again brought Trump’s relationship with Russia under scrutiny.

Senior House Democrats were furious with the reports, which first surfaced Saturday. Pelosi told ABC ‘s ‘This Week” on Sunday: “This is as bad as it gets.”

“If reports are true that Russia offered a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Trump wasn’t briefed, that’s a problem,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) tweeted Sunday. “What will it take to get Trump to abandon the fiction that Putin is our friend?”

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” Trump said. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Democrats, however, hammered the president over the bounties.

“It’s sickening that American soldiers have been killed as a result of Russian bounties on their heads, and the Commander in Chief didn’t do a thing to stop it,” Representatuve Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, told Politico.

Research contact: @politico

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