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President Trump denies understanding about an intelligence report that mentioned Russia paid a bounty to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The White Home briefed a choose group of lawmakers Monday on intelligence reviews that Russia offered bounties to Taliban militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, amid rising questions in Congress concerning the administration’s obvious inaction on the matter.

Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Chief Chuck Schumer demanded a categorised briefing for all Home and Senate members Monday, whereas the White Home downplayed the intelligence evaluation and mentioned President Donald Trump had not been briefed on the matter as a result of it had not been absolutely verified. 

“Congress and the nation want solutions now,” Pelosi, D-Calif, wrote in a letter Monday to Trump’s CIA director and his Director of Nationwide Intelligence. 

Pelosi and different lawmakers, together with some Republicans, mentioned they need to know why Trump was not briefed on the intelligence evaluation and what steps the U.S. can take to punish Moscow for focusing on American troops.   

“What we’re speaking about right here is placing the goal crosshairs on the backs of American servicemen and girls in uniform,” mentioned Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sasse mentioned Congress must be targeted on two questions:  “No. 1, Who knew what, when, and did the commander-in-chief know? And if not, how the hell not?”

Rep. Andy Kim, a New Jersey Democrat who sits on the Home Armed Companies Committee, additionally mentioned the vital query is whether or not Trump knew or not.

“Both he did learn about it and he is mendacity, or his administration has de-prioritized one thing that places American folks’s lives – our servicemembers’ lives – in danger,” Kim mentioned. “I feel it is extremely damaging that the president is saying that he did not learn about this.” 

White Home press secretary Kayleigh McEnany mentioned the White Home invited eight lawmakers from the related congressional committees to a briefing on Monday. It was not clear if any Democrats have been invited or attended.

Rep. Jim Banks, who serves on the Armed Companies Committee – publicly confirmed that he participated. After the briefing, Banks blasted the media for disclosing the intelligence, saying the New York Occasions, which first reported the story, could have blood on their hands for disrupting an investigation into the Russian operation. 

“The true scandal: We’ll doubtless by no means know the reality… As a result of the @nytimes used unconfirmed intel in an ONGOING investigation into focused killing of American troopers to be able to smear the President. The blood is on their palms,” Banks, who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and deployed to Afghanistan, wrote on Twitter.

Late Monday,CIA Director Gina Haspel and Trump’s Director of Nationwide Intelligence John Ratcliffe each issued uncommon public statements on the matter.

Ratcliffe blasted what he referred to as the “selective leaking of any categorised data” and advised the media reviews on the alleged Russian operation had interfered with efforts to probe additional into the matter. 

“We’re nonetheless investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in current media reporting and we’ll temporary the president and congressional leaders on the acceptable time,” Ratcliffe mentioned. “Sadly, unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our capability to ever discover out the complete story with respect to those allegations.”

Haspel equally mentioned that leaks “compromise and disrupt” intelligence analysts’ capability to “gather, assess, and ascribe culpability.”

Whereas not commenting straight on the Russia intelligence, she defended the intelligence group’s dealing with of the problem, together with reviews that U.S. officers had briefed allied nations whereas probably not briefing the president.

“When creating intelligence assessments, preliminary tactical reviews typically require extra assortment and validation,” Haspel mentioned. “Normally, preliminary pressure safety data is shared all through the nationwide safety group – and with U.S. allies – as a part of our ongoing efforts to make sure the protection of coalition forces abroad.”

After talking with Haspel and Ratcliffe, Pelosi mentioned she nonetheless had “many severe questions” about what the White Home is doing to handle threats from Russia and maintain Moscow accountable. 

Trump denied on Sunday that he had been briefed on the Russian bounty operation, which a number of information retailers, together with the Related Press, have confirmed because the Occasions revealed its story on Friday. Trump has tried to solid doubt on the tales.

“Intel simply reported to me that they didn’t discover this information credible, and due to this fact didn’t report it to me or @VP,” the president tweeted on Sunday evening, referring to Vice President Mike Pence. “Presumably one other fabricated Russia Hoax, perhaps by the Pretend Information … desirous to make Republicans look dangerous!!!”

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the report.

“These claims are nothing however lies,” mentioned Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, in accordance with Tass, a Russian information company. Peskov echoed Trump’s Twitter put up, saying the New York Occasions is thought for publishing “elaborate hoaxes.” 

When requested if the intelligence was included within the president’s written every day briefing, McEnany responded: “He was not personally briefed on the matter.”  

She mentioned Trump was not instructed concerning the intelligence findings as a result of some intelligence officers questioned the evaluation. 

“There was not a consensus among the many intelligence group, and in reality, there have been dissenting opinions inside the intelligence group,” she mentioned. “And it could not be elevated to the president till it was verified.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Home Intelligence Committee, questioned that clarification. Presidents are steadily briefed on intelligence that isn’t rock stable – with analysts explaining how a lot confidence they’ve within the data – so “the president can consider the importance of it but additionally requested for extra data,” Schiff mentioned in an interview with CNN on Monday. 

This report particularly ought to have been flagged for Trump due to the significance of U.S.-Russian relations and the potential menace to American navy personnel, he mentioned. “If it goes to the safety of our troops, that is one thing that must be briefed to the commander-in-chief,” Schiff instructed CNN. 

An aide to Home Majority Chief Steny Hoyer, D-Md., mentioned he could be bringing a handful of Democrats to the White Home on Tuesday morning for a briefing. However Hoyer is constant to press the White Home for a full congressional briefing, mentioned his aide, who was not licensed to talk publicly on the state of affairs.

Democrats weren’t alone in elevating questions on how the White Home dealt with the Russian bounty reviews.

Republican Sen. Todd Younger, who sits on the Senate International Relations Committee, mentioned he was “alarmed” that Trump, Pence and prime lawmakers in Congress weren’t briefed on the intelligence data. Younger advised intelligence officers must be held “accountable for his or her gross negligence” for failing to alert the president, and he referred to as for congressional hearings to probe the Russia allegations.

“We should work to establish the reliability of media reviews and, the place obligatory, advance accountability inside our personal authorities and facilitate a punishing response to the seemingly immoral, unlawful, and unconscionable actions of the dictator who lords over the Russian folks,” Younger, of Indiana, mentioned in a press release Monday.

Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the Home Republican management, mentioned in a tweet Sunday that if the report is correct, “the White Home should clarify” why the president and vp weren’t briefed on the matter and “what has been finished in response to guard our forces & maintain Putin accountable?”

In its story on Friday, the Occasions reported that Russian navy intelligence officers supplied Taliban-connected militants bounties for killing American and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The Occasions story additionally reported that prime White Home officers have been briefed on the matter in late March and Trump was additionally knowledgeable.

It is not clear if the Russian operation resulted within the deaths of American troops. The Related Press reported that intelligence officers are investigating an April 2019 assault on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines after a automobile rigged with explosives detonated close to their armored automobiles as they traveled again to Bagram Airfield, the biggest U.S. navy set up in Afghanistan.

Three different U.S. service members have been wounded within the assault, together with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban claimed duty for the assault on Twitter. The officers the AP spoke to additionally mentioned they have been wanting carefully at insider assaults — generally referred to as “green-on-blue” incidents — from 2019 to find out if they’re additionally linked to Russian bounties.

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

Contributing: Maureen Groppe, the Related Press

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