One of the top Republican lawmakers in the House joined on Sunday a growing list of legislators calling on the Trump administration to explain what it knew about the reports that Russian intelligence agents offered to pay bounties to Afghan militants who killed U.S. troops in the country.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted Sunday morning that if the reports in the New York Times about the bounties were true, then the White House needed to explain what it knew about the intelligence and how it responded.
A senior official told CBS News the bounty allegations did not appear in the President’s Daily Brief, a regular summary of national-security issues delivered to the president and some Cabinet secretaries. The National Security Council has been performing “due diligence” but has not found the intel assessment as described in the existing reporting, the official said.
Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, specifically focused on the denials by both Trump and White House staff that neither the president nor Vice President Pence were briefed on the matter, and asked for more information on why this is the case.
“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?” Cheney tweeted. “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?”
The New York Times first reported over the weekend that American intelligence officials have determined a Russian military unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces, including targeting American troops. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post also reported on the Kremlin’s effort to orchestrate attacks on Western troops.
The Times reported that President Trump and the White House’s National Security Council were briefed on Russia’s bounty rewards in late March. They discussed an appropriate response, ranging from making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and economic sanctions, but the White House had not yet authorized a response.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political divide have called on the Trump administration to explain what it knew about the bounties.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it’s “imperative” to get answers and urged the Trump administration to tell Congress what it knows about Russia’s efforts to pay bounties to kill American soldiers.
“I expect the Trump Administration to take such allegations seriously and inform Congress immediately as to the reliability of these news reports,” Graham, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted.
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