Democrats say troop threats should be pursued ‘relentlessly’

Democrats say troop threats should be pursued ‘relentlessly’

Democrats say troop threats should be pursued ‘relentlessly’

WASHINGTON — The two top Democrats in Congress said Thursday that any threats to U.S. troops must be pursued “relentlessly,” rebuking President Donald Trump after receiving a highly classified briefing about intelligence that Russia offered bounties for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump, who has downplayed the threat, was “soft” on Russian President Vladimir Putin and distracted by less important issues. Trump has called reports of the intelligence assessments a “hoax” and has so far declined to address whether the U.S. has or will respond to Russia.

“Our armed forces would be better served if President Trump spent more time reading his daily briefing and less time planning military parades and defending relics of the Confederacy,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

Trump and the White House have repeatedly insisted that the president wasn’t originally briefed because the information was unverified, even though it’s rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to senior government decision-makers. Officials have told The Associated Press and other news organizations that the information was included in one of the president’s written daily briefings last year and again this year.

The criticism comes as Trump is working to change the narrative but has faced increasing pressure from lawmakers in Congress — including some Republicans — who have demanded more answers about the intelligence assessment. The president has repeatedly tweeted about protesters tearing down monuments to the Confederacy and on Thursday held a news conference to tout newly released numbers showing added jobs in the economy. He did not mention Russia.

Top intelligence officials, including CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, conducted the closed-door briefing for a group of lawmakers dubbed the “gang of eight” — Pelosi, Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and the top Republicans and Democrats on the two intelligence committees.

The group regularly receives classified briefings at the highest levels, and leaders rarely speak about them. Pelosi and Schumer did not address the substance of the meeting, and none of the other lawmakers leaving the meeting would comment on it.

In a news conference shortly afterward, Pelosi called for tougher sanctions on Russia. She said the White House has “put on a con” that there has to be 100% consensus on intelligence for it to rise to a presidential level.

Without sharing details, Pelosi said “it was a consequential level that the intelligence community should have brought it to us.”

The House intelligence committee also received a briefing on the matter Thursday afternoon, according to a person familiar with that meeting who requested anonymity because it was not publicly disclosed.

The intelligence assessments that Russia offered bounties were first reported by The New York Times, then confirmed to The Associated Press by American intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the matter.

As the president has continued to downplay the intelligence, calling the reports “fake news” designed to damage him and the Republican Party, administration officials have insisted they have taken the assessment seriously. National security adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday that the CIA and Pentagon pursued the leads and briefed international allies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the situation was handled “incredibly well” to ensure the safety of U.S. troops.

“We took this seriously, we handled it appropriately,” Pompeo said, without giving additional details. He said the administration receives intelligence about threats to Americans “every single day” and each is addressed.

Still, lawmakers have pressed for more answers. A group of House Democrats who were briefed at the White House earlier this week said Trump was bowing to Putin and risking U.S. soldiers’ lives by not making a stronger public statement about the matter.

Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said the panel would “leave no stone unturned” in seeking further information. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called on the administration to provide a briefing to all senators after he reviewed some of the intelligence in a secure room in the Capitol.

“If it is concluded that Russia offered bounties to murder American soldiers, a firm American response is required in short order,” Toomey said.

Other Republicans defended the president, saying they had confidence in the administration’s response. McConnell said earlier this week that he didn’t think Trump should be “subjected to every rumour.” He did not comment as he left the briefing Thursday.

While Russian meddling in Afghanistan isn’t new, officials said Russian operatives had become more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012.

The intelligence community has been investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines when a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armoured vehicles as they travelled back to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, officials told the AP.

Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the attack, along with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The officials the AP spoke to also said they were looking closely at insider attacks from 2019 to determine if they were linked to Russian bounties.

Intelligence officials told the AP that the White House first became aware of alleged Russian bounties in early 2019. The assessments were included in one of the president’s written daily briefings at the time, and then-national security adviser John Bolton had told colleagues he had briefed Trump on the matter.

___

Associated Press writers James LaPorta, Zeke Miller, Lisa Mascaro, Alan Fram, Matthew Daly and Deb Riechmann in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in Mystic, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

Mary Clare Jalonick And Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

Russia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The external wall of the Bentley Post Office was destroyed when a semi drove into the building, resulting is an estimated $50,000 in damages. (Photo Submitted)
Sylvan Lake RCMP lay charges in post office destruction

One suspect is in custody the second suspect has a warrant for his arrest

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province still hopes to bring the hospitalization number down before relaxing restrictions. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
14 new deaths, 366 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Province nearing 100K COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

The first pages of the book, by Kristy Walker.
Sylvan Lake author pens first children’s book about COVID-19

“The Coronavirus Isn’t Scary” by Kristy Walker teaches children to take care of themselves

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, MLA Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Devin Dreeshen. (Photo Submitted)
Ag Minister announces 20% off crop insurance for Alberta farmers

Dreeshen says this will support job creators and boosting rural economy during a difficult time

(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. (Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office says the government will make any necessary changes

People walk along a pedestrianized zone of Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Monday, May 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Newly released statistics point to a major drop in police-recorded crime during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Crime down in first 8 months of pandemic, but mental health calls rise: StatCan

The agency says violent crimes such as assault dropped significantly

(Photo submitted)
Central Alberta researchers recognized for studies in agricultural sciences

Jessica Sperber of Ponoka and David MacTaggart of Lacombe awarded prestigious scholarship

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

A ground worker wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 unloads lobsters from a WestJet Airlines flight at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Trudeau teases stricter travel measures; Canadians flying to U.S. now need COVID test

Prime minister says measures need to not hurt imports and essential trade

(Photo submitted)
Ponoka RCMP receives new police puppy trainee

Detachment says goodbye to ‘Maja’ and welcomes ‘Neutron’

Most Read