Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington want answers on new explosive reports that a Russian spy unit paid the Taliban to attack US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
The New York Times first reported that US intelligence officials determined that a Russian military unit was secretly offering rewards to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces, including the attack on US troops. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post also reported on the Kremlin’s efforts to mount attacks on Western troops.
Senator Bob Menéndez, DN.J., asked that the Senate vote on new sanctions against Russia.
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“If Trump refuses to hold Putin accountable for financing terrorism against US troops in Afghanistan, then Congress must step up again,” Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted.
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., said it is “imperative” to get answers and urged the Trump administration to tell Congress what it knows about Russia’s efforts to pay rewards for killing US soldiers.
“I hope that the Trump Administration will take these allegations seriously and report to Congress immediately on the reliability of these news reports,” Graham, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted.
The Times reported that President Trump and the White House National Security Council were briefed on Russia’s bounty rewards in late March. They discussed an appropriate response, which ranged from filing a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and economic sanctions, but the White House had yet to authorize a response.
However, the White House said Saturday that Trump was not informed of Russia’s alleged reward intelligence, but did not confirm or deny the underlying information that Russia was giving rewards for attacking US soldiers.
“The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day and is subject to strict scrutiny. While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA Director, the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Cabinet can confirm that neither the president nor the vice president was informed of the alleged Russian reward intelligence, “Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, said in a statement. “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story that erroneously suggests that President Trump was informed on this matter.”
The reports quickly became fodder for the 2020 presidential campaign.
During a Saturday in town hall, former Vice President Joe Biden mentioned the “shocking revelation” that Trump reportedly knew about rewards for months and criticized the president for doing “something worse than nothing.”
“Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any consequences in Russia for this heinous violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his shameful campaign of deference and degradation to Vladimir Putin,” said Biden, the alleged Democratic presidential candidate for president. . “He has had this information according to the Times, and yet he offered to host Putin in the United States and sought to invite Russia to join the G7. His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin. “
Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, questioned how Trump could maintain a friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, even by welcoming him to a G-7 Summit in the United States, while his regime allegedly attempted to kill Americans.
“President Trump was approaching Putin and inviting him to the G7, while his administration allegedly knew that Russia was trying to kill US troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban,” Kaine, the Democratic candidate for Twitter, tweeted. the 2016 vice presidency.
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Representative Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he has already contacted the Trump Administration for a response.
If the reports are accurate, McCaul said, “the Administration must take swift and serious steps to hold the Putin regime accountable.”
McCaul said that if a Russian military intelligence unit were to offer Afghan militant rewards for killing US troops, “it would only deepen my serious concerns about the malicious behavior of the Putin regime globally.”
The Russian military unit secretly offered rewards for successful attacks last year in Afghanistan, The Times reported. The unit has been linked to assassination attempts in Europe. Islamist militants are believed to have raised the reward money. Twenty Americans died in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was unclear if any of these deaths were related to rewards.
Representative Lee Zeldin, an Iraq war veteran, said he requested additional information. “If this is true, it would be a severe escalation by Russia,” said Zeldin, RN.Y.
The report renewed Democrats’ suspicions about Trump’s relationship with Putin stemming from Russian government interference in the 2016 election campaign.
“Lack of response by [Trump] suggests he may be indebted to Putin, “Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted.”[Trump] It is putting the lives of American troops at risk by doing nothing. Having served on active duty, I consider this behavior by our Commander-in-Chief to be unacceptable. “
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During the presidential race, Russia waged a social media campaign that favored Trump and belittled Democrat Hillary Clinton and also carried out computer attacks to steal Democratic emails and publicly release them. The investigation by Special Adviser Robert Mueller, however, “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in their electoral interference activities.”
Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera contributed to this report.