Republican lawmakers are now demanding answers from the Trump administration over claims that a branch of Russian military intelligence offered bounties to Taliban militias to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The lawmakers have called on Donald Trump and his administration to clarify the situation. The lawmakers stated if true Russia must be held accountable for its actions. Trump used Twitter to publicly deny that he was briefed about the bounty claims prior to the story being made public.
Trump claims that no one briefed him, Mike Pence, or White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on the “so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians,” adding: “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us.”
The New York Times was the first to report about the alleged Russian bounties and of Trump’s knowledge of their existence. The Washington Post later backed the Times story.
John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence has stated that neither Trump nor Pence “were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has also stated that neither was briefed about the situation.
Trump responded to a tweet made by Sen. Lindsey Graham, who questioned the situation. Trump tweeted, “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 it was possibly “another fabricated Russia Hoax” and said The New York Times wanted to “make Republicans look bad!!!”
Graham is just one of several Republicans raising questions about the situation. Graham has called for the Trump Administration to inform Congress of its reliability.
“Imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports that Russian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Taliban to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region,” Graham tweeted. “I expect the Trump Administration to take such allegations seriously and inform Congress immediately as to the reliability of these news reports.”
Rep. French Hill (R-AR) stated that he was “deeply concerned” by the news reports.
“Vladimir Putin has never been a friend to the United States. I am deeply concerned by the reports that Russia put bounties on American soldiers,” he tweeted. “If this is true, Russia must be held accountable.”
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) also called for accountability: “Russia must be held accountable if reports are true that a Russian intelligence unit offered militants bounties to kill American soldiers and other coalition forces. This cannot be allowed to go unanswered.”
Liz Cheney (R-WY) had a list of questions she wanted answers to.
Cheney tweeted: “If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?”
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), shared Cheney’s questions and added: “The American people have a right to know what is being done to protect our men and women in uniform. We need answers now.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) shared Cheney’s tweet as well and added: “This is exactly right. We need answers.”
Rep. John Katko (R-NY) said that “all threats made against members of our military must be taken seriously,” Katko wrote on Facebook, alongside a link to The New York Times report.
“As a leader on the House Homeland Security Committee, I look forward to more information becoming public and am committed to ensuring the safety of our nation and those who protect it. We must always act to hold those who endanger our [servicemembers] accountable.”
Several Democratic lawmakers slammed Trump’s aim accusing him of inaction against Russia.
“President Trump doing absolutely nothing while a Russian spy unit pays the Taliban to kill US soldiers is a profound betrayal of our troops. It’s also the definition of a failed Commander-in-Chief,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth called for a Committee on Armed Services hearing into the situation in a letter to Jim Inhofe, the committee chairman, she requested an open hearing with testimony from “the secretary of defense, the CIA director, and the commander of the Resolute Support Mission and the United States Forces-Afghanistan.”
“Members of the US Armed Forces, military families—and the American people—deserve answers & accountability for President Trump’s outrageous failure of leadership & apparent betrayal of our troops,”” Duckworth wrote.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also spoke out writing, “I am deeply distressed that President Trump appears to have willfully failed to protest service members and failed them and their families. We do not have to follow in his footsteps.”