Top Democrat asks US spy chiefs for briefing on Russia bounty reports

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks through statuary hall on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. — Getty Images via AFP
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks through statuary hall on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. — Getty Images via AFP

WASHINGTON, June 29 — US Speaker Nancy Pelosi today called on the heads of the intelligence services to hold a briefing on reports that Russia paid bounties to Taliban-linked militias to kill US soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

An explosive New York Times report, citing anonymous officials, said US President Donald Trump had been told about findings, which he has denied.

“The questions that arise are: was the president briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed,” said Pelosi in a letter to John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, and CIA director Gina Haspel.

According to the report, confirmed by several American and British media outlets, US intelligence concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants to kill troops of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

The rewards were purportedly incentives to target US forces as Trump tries to withdraw troops from the conflict-torn country — one of the militants’ key demands — and end America’s longest war.

Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, asked them to hold an interagency briefing for all members of the House of Representatives on the reports and “President Trump’s inexplicable behaviour towards Russia.”

“Congress and the country need answers now,” Pelosi said, adding that the briefing should also focus on “what options are available to hold Russia accountable.”

Trump on Sunday denied having been briefed on the matter, as the explosive report renewed questions about his reluctance to confront Russia over behaviour that, if accurate, would represent a serious national security challenge.

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” he tweeted. — AFP

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