Nothing gets the blood boiling faster in Washington than political infighting. The most recent case concerns the alleged Russian practice of paying the Taliban for killing American soldiers.
According to a report by the New York Times, U.S. intelligence officials had determined that a Russian military intelligence unit (GRU) had offered militants allied to the Taliban bounties for killing American and Coalition troops in Afghanistan.
But the bombshell of the report stated that President Trump was briefed on this back in March. Lawmakers on both sides of the floor raised concerns on why was Congress not briefed and why the administration had not announced this publicly or stated how the United States would respond to these actions.
As the veracity of these allegations has yet to be proven, the White House steadfastly denies that either the President or Vice President had been briefed on the matter.
Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, posted on Twitter Saturday that “neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.”
“There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McNenay said to the media. “And in effect, there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community with regards to the veracity of what’s being reported, and the veracity of the underlying allegations continue to be evaluated.”
Reporters asked McNenay what message the Trump White House would send to Moscow over these allegations. McNenay repeated that there would be none until the supposed intelligence on these allegations were verified.
On Sunday night, the President, as usual, took to Twitter:
“Nobody briefed or told me, VP Pence, or [White House] Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians. Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us.” But another of his tweets went further:
“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax.. wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”
Mark Meadows, called Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer and said that he would brief eight members from the relevant committees in a bipartisan setting. This brought calls for more investigations from Congress.
Both House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, were calling for investigations into the matter. Pelosi said on Sunday that she had yet to be briefed on the subject.
Then on Monday, she wrote in a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Ratliffe, and to the head of the Central Intelligence Agency that the revelation was “very disturbing” and requested an immediate interagency briefing for all House members.
“The questions that arise are: was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed,” she wrote.
Schumer also called for the Senate to be briefed on this report. Reiterating Pelosi’s statement, he stated that, “We need to know whether or not President Trump was told this information, and if so, when.”
But on the Senate floor, Schumer, unsurprisingly, changed his angle saying the President knew about the allegations back in March and took no action.
“Russia gives bounties to kill Americans and the administration does nothing? Nothing?” Schumer said. “Donald Trump, you’re not being a very strong president here as usual.”
However, several Republican lawmakers also voiced concern over the allegations.
“If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true,” Rep. Liz Cheney, (R-WY), said on Twitter, “the White House must explain:
1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the [president’s daily intelligence briefing]?
2. Who did know and when? What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold [Russian President Vladimir] Putin accountable?”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), also tweeted that it was “imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports” adding that, “I expect the Trump Administration to take such allegations seriously and inform Congress immediately as to the reliability of these news reports.”