House Democrats participated in a briefing at the White House today over reports that Russia secretly offered bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Two new reports claim that President Trump was briefed on the situation and that intelligence was included in at least one of his daily briefings.
Another source says the intelligence was specific enough that the military and CIA took steps to increase security and surveillance of Russian operatives in Afghanistan and that senior officials were briefed as well.
President Trump and his team claim there was no briefing because the information wasn't verified.
"There were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified," said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) led fellow Democrats to Tuesday's briefing that included Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA).
On Monday, Hoyer released a statement demanding an all-House briefing over the matter.
"While I will be going to the White House tomorrow for a briefing, the Admin ought to brief the full House immediately," Hoyer tweeted.
It is outrageous that POTUS has taken no action since our intelligence assessed Russia placed bounties on US troops in Afghanistan. While I will be going to the White House tomorrow for a briefing, the Admin ought to brief the full House immediately. https://t.co/9NCKlIF5n0
— Steny Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) June 29, 2020
Despite reports that the administration was aware of the bounties for months, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said the intelligence agencies did not inform the president.
"Because the allegations in recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the Intelligence community, President Trump had not been briefed on the items," O'Brien said.
"Nevertheless, the administration, including the National Security Council staff, have been preparing should the situation warrant action," he added.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) requested a briefing from the Pentagon this week, citing that soldiers and their families have a right to know the truth.
"If the reports are true, that the administration knew about this Russian operation and did nothing, they have broken the trust of those who serve and the commitment to their families to ensure their loved one's safety," Smith said on Monday. "It is imperative that the House Armed Services Committee receive detailed answers from the Department of Defense."
Republican lawmakers are also seeking answers to the allegations.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted, "Imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports that Russian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Taliban to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region."
Imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports that Russian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Taliban to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region. https://t.co/dm4QWATzgg
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 27, 2020
In a tweet, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) wrote that if "Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain."
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? 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?
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) June 28, 2020
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denies that Russian offered payments to the Taliban in exchange for targeting US servicemen and women.