Katko: Congress should investigate secret Russian bounties and what Trump was told

Elias Hubbard
June 30, 2020

Both Democrats and President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress demanded more information from the White House on Monday after reports that Russian military intelligence offered militants bounties for killing USA troops in Afghanistan.

"I'm not taking his word for it", Katko said of Trump.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said, "After today's briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted USA forces".

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday in a briefing with reporters that there is "no consensus within the intelligence community" on the Russian bounty claims, "and in effect there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community with regards to the veracity of what's being reported".

If the report is confirmed, Katko said, he wants to know whether the president and vice president were informed by USA intelligence officials.

Crucially, the officials told the Times the Russian Federation assessment was considered sufficiently serious and credible to include in a May 4 article in the CIA's classified World Intelligence Review, its flagship intelligence product.

The accusations have spurred a bipartisan call for an explanation, and Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said late Monday that the Department of Defense was evaluating relevant intelligence but that to date there has been "no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports".

Separately, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Monday that all members of the Senate should be briefed by intelligence officials on the issue. The sources did not confirm Trump's assertions that intelligence agencies had somehow declared the reporting was not credible.

The White House seemed to be setting an unusually high bar for bringing the information to Trump, since it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to senior government decision-makers.

"If true that Russian Federation reprehensively targeted our service members, it will certainly require a swift, strong and appropriate response from the United States". "Neither is acceptable for a Commander in Chief".

Oklahoma lawmakers on Monday expressed deep concern about reports that Russian Federation placed bounties on US service members and troops from other western countries serving in Afghanistan.

The mushrooming scandal comes with Trump trying to withdraw troops from the conflict-torn country - one of the Taliban's key demands - and end America's longest war.

"Nobody briefed or told me, [Vice President] Pence or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an "anonymous source" by the Fake News [New York Times]".

"Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP", he tweeted.

But even in Republican ranks, there were expressions of concern at the gravity of the allegations.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the Number 3 Republican in the House, called on the White House to share more information with Congress, saying, if true, legislators need to know: "Who did know and when?" and, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin: "What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?"

Ratcliffe and national security advisor Robert O'Brien condemned leaks to the media over the intelligence in statements late Monday.

She speculated that Trump wasn't briefed "because they know it makes him very unhappy, and all roads for him, as you know, lead to Putin. After all, his team made sure to tell him about the outlandish claim that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower!" he tweeted.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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