Lawmakers from both parties are asking the Trump administration to provide information on what the president knew and on a report, originally released by the New York Times and confirmed by other means, that Russian operatives offered rewards from Taliban fighters to US soldiers.
The original Times Friday’s report sparked a political storm, with Democrats denouncing President Trump’s lack of response to an extreme act of provocation by the Russians as part of a perceived pattern of softness towards Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House on Saturday denied the report’s claim that Trump received information about the rewards in March, and Trump dismissed the wholesale report on Sunday, tweeting that it was “reported through an” anonymous source “by Fake News @nytimes. They all deny it and there have not been many attacks against us. “
But that did not satisfy lawmakers in Congress, and Intelligence Chamber President Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) Tweeted: “If the reports are true, Russia offered a reward for US troops in Afghanistan and Trump did not. He was informed, that’s a problem, “And asking” What will it take for Trump to abandon the fiction that Putin is our friend? “
But it’s not just Democrats who are asking for answers; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), The No. 3 Republican in the House, tweeted a list of questions the White House should answer if the reports are true.
“1. Why was the president or vice president not informed? Was the information in the [President’s Daily Briefing]? She asked: “2. Who knew and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces and hold Putin accountable?
The report of the Times’ Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz claim that US intelligence officers discovered that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered rewards to Taliban militants for killing coalition forces, including US troops, in Afghanistan. The report also alleges that Trump was presented with a “menu of potential options” to respond to after being informed in March, but that Trump chose to sit on the information. Trump lobbied for Russia to be allowed to attend the G7 summit in May, after he was allegedly informed of the rewards.
The Russian embassy in the United States flatly denied Times report, calling it “another false story, released in the media space by the #US intelligence community.”
Trump’s presidency was bogged down for years by accusations that his friendship with Russia had reached the point of collusion. While Mueller’s investigation had no legal consequences, it inflicted political damage. With the elections less than five months away, another protracted Russia-related scandal could serve as an added drag on Trump, who already badly follows former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls.