Top intel officials brief Pelosi, congressional leaders on reported Russian bounty on US troops
President Donald Trump has called the reported bounties a ‘hoax.”
July 2, 2020, 3:56 PM
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5 min read
CIA Director Gina Haspel led a slate of intelligence officials to the U.S. Capitol Thursday to brief a select group of lawmakers on reports Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
While the White House claims intelligence about the bounty reports was not fully verified by the U.S., a military official confirmed to ABC News on Sunday that Russian intelligence officers offered to pay Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan over the past year, amid peace talks to end the 18-year war there.
President Donald Trump has continued to call news reports about the bounties a “hoax.”
U.S. intelligence agencies linked the effort to a Russian intelligence unit suspected of covert action and assassination attempts in Europe, according to The New York Times, which first reported the intelligence findings said to have been presented to Trump in March.
The president and vice president have both denied that they were briefed on the matter.
Last year, 23 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan, but whether any were targeted by Taliban fighters paid by Russian operatives isn’t known, the military official told ABC News. The official didn’t know whether Trump was briefed but said other senior U.S. officials learned of the Russian operation “months ago.”
Members of the so-called “Gang of Eight” were expected to attend Thursday’s briefing. The exclusive group is comprised of the legislative branch’s highest ranking members and top intelligence leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
As she arrived for the closed-door briefing, Pelosi told reporters that she hoped to obtain “the truth” while McCarthy said that there’s “a lot” for lawmakers to learn about the reports.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and General Paul M. Nakasone, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command, were expected to join Haspel for the briefing, according to a source familiar with plan.
Several lawmakers from both parties attended briefings earlier this week at the White House, although Pelosi and Schumer have continued to press the administration to conduct briefings for the entire congressional membership.
Democrats characterized the White House briefing Tuesday as inadequate, calling on the administration to provide “direct evidence and discussion from intelligence community into how credible they assess the information.” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the intelligence a “red flag” and said the American people must understand whether the United States’ relationship with Russia is “compromised by the relationship between the president and Mr. Putin.”
ABC News’ James Meek and Luis Martinez contributed to this report