Democrats Demand More Answers on Russian Bounty Report

Democrats demanded the Trump administration provide more information about intelligence that Russia put a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and accused the White House of failing to take the matter seriously.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said after getting a briefing at the White House that he isn’t sure whether President Donald Trump has yet heard details about the intelligence days after the first public reports about it.

“This is a red flag, that either was not waved, or the president ignored the wave,” Hoyer said. “This is a serious matter and we need to make sure members of Congress and the public understand whether our relationship with Russia is compromised by the president and his relationship with” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There is “certainly” evidence of Russian involvement in Afghanistan with regard to placing bounties on U.S. troops, Democratic Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said after returning from a briefing at the White House.

Trump has publicly shrugged off allegations that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan. His only public statement about the reports was a tweet that an intelligence official he didn’t name told him the bounty allegations weren’t credible.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff suggested “there may be reluctance” on the part of intelligence and White House officials to brief the president “on things he doesn’t want to hear,” particularly with respect to Russia.

“I would certainly put this in the category that if you are going to be on the phone with Vladimir Putin, this is something you ought to know,” Schiff said at a news conference with Hoyer and the other Democrats who were briefed.

Some Republicans also want the administration to provide more answers.

“I think we need to get the truth here,” Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said. “We need to find out where the intelligence reports were lodged and what the intelligence community thought about them and who was told.”

Acting Senate Intelligence Chairman Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliff was set to go before the panel Wednesday for a previously scheduled hearing.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Intelligence committee, said military families in his home state of Nebraska are “livid” about the reported bounties.

“This is a time to focus on the two things that Congress should be looking at. One, who knew what when and did the commander and chief know?” Sasse told reporters Monday. The second, he said, is “what are we going to do to impose proportional cost in response?”

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Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast.

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