GOP lawmakers urge action after briefing on Russian-bounty allegations

Lawmakers want answers from Pentagon, White House on reported Russian bounties

Four U.S. government sources confirmed to Reuters the existence of classified U.S. intelligence reports suggesting that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

The classified briefing came from administration officials including John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence; Robert O'Brien, the White House National Security Adviser; and Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff, according to Reps.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) wrote the two top intelligence officials on June 29 demanding an immediate briefing to members of Congress.

Russia has denied the initial reports while the Taliban said it had not done any deal with Russian intelligence. "Everybody is denying it and there have not been many attacks on us", Trump said.

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

Officials said they did not consider the intelligence assessments in 2019 to be particularly urgent, given that Russian meddling in Afghanistan is not a new occurrence.

"If this is true, and they knew about it, most certainly they should have informed the president", Katko said of intelligence officials. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump's brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically. However, the president was not briefed on the matter.

Trump himself cast doubt on the legitimacy of the allegations, noting that he would have already been notified if the United States intelligence community believed they were not bogus. On Monday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted the president had not, in fact, received any briefing on the matter.

"It's time to recognize the danger this presidency places on our national security", he said while calling on the White House to hold a full House briefing.

And if it is true that those who knew of this threat of American lives failed to tell the president, then we should expect a president with such an affinity for firing senior officials to have no qualms about acting swiftly to remove the cabinet-level officials who failed to share this critical information with him. So, it is essential I think that Congress know it.

The intelligence community has been investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines after a auto rigged with explosives detonated near their armoured vehicles as they travelled back to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, officials told the AP. The officials the AP spoke to also said they were looking closely at insider attacks - sometimes called "green-on-blue" attacks - from 2019 to determine if they are also linked to Russian bounties.

Several Democrats in the House of Representatives are to be briefed on the matter early on June 30.

John Bolton told colleagues that he briefed Mr Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

The White House National Security Council wouldn't confirm the assessments but said the US receives thousands of intelligence reports daily that are subject to strict scrutiny.

Biden said: "His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this beyond the pale".

Asked about the reports on the alleged bounties, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, "These claims are lies".



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