Intel Proves ‘Russian Bounties’ Were No Hoax, House Dems Say

A group of House Democrats left a classified briefing at the White House Tuesday morning, on  reports that Russia paid Taliban fighters bounties on U.S. soldiers, with complaints that Trump administration officials were not more forthcoming about the intelligence. And they also left with lots of questions about why the president—who has dismissed the story as another “Russia hoax”—is not being more forthcoming with criticism for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“The president called this a hoax, publicly,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the number two House Democrat, at a Capitol Hill press conference after returning from the White House. “Nothing in the briefing we just received led me to believe it’s a hoax. There may be different judgements as to the level of credibility… there was no assertion that the information we had was a hoax.”

“We did not,” said Hoyer, “receive any new, substantive information.”

And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the “right people to give the briefing were not in the room,” noting the absence of intelligence agency leaders. Schiff also addressed the question of whether or not Trump himself was briefed on the intelligence, as the initial report in the New York Times alleged and Trump denies. “There may be a reluctance to brief the president on things he doesn’t want to hear,” he said. The Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that top White House officials did not want to brief Trump on the Russia bounty intelligence for fear he’d resist or ignore the information. 

Schiff also questioned why the Trump administration has not addressed how it will respond to Russia. “I find it inexplicable in light of these public allegations that the President hasn’t come before the country and assured people that he’ll get to the bottom of whether Russians are putting bounties on the heads of troops,” said Schiff, who said that U.S. officials should be considering sanctions on Russia, not inviting them to multilateral talks like those in the G7.

The Democratic lawmakers said they were unable to elaborate on why the intelligence was not, as Trump claimed, a “hoax.” They are requesting an all-member briefing from intelligence officials soon. 

But a key focus going forward, said Hoyer, is learning more about what Trump knew about the matter, and when. If Harry Truman said the “buck stops with me,” quipped Hoyer, “Trump says, I didn’t see the buck.”

Recommended Posts