After Closed "Briefing" on Alleged Russian Bounties Targeting U.S. Troops, Warren and Hirono Seek Answers from Trump National Security Adviser, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, & Director of National Intelligence
Warren Requests Information from Commander of U.S. Forces - Afghanistan on Safety and Security of Servicemembers; "Briefing by Trump Administration officials altogether failed to meet even the minimum standards for briefing the committee with legislative and oversight responsibility for the Department of Defense"
Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), wrote to President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe seeking information on their knowledge of, and actions related to, reports that Russia's military intelligence unit (GRU) covertly offered and made payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Senator Warren also wrote to the Commander of U.S. Forces - Afghanistan General Austin Scott Miller requesting clarification on the safety and security of U.S. servicemembers following these troubling reports.
"If true and President Trump did nothing, it represents a shocking betrayal of the most basic responsibility of a Commander-in-Chief: to keep deployed American troops safe from those who would try to kill them," wrote Senators Warren and Hirono. Noting the president has dismissed multiple reports detailing the alleged Russian scheme as a hoax, the senators wrote: "President Trump appears to be knowingly echoing what appears to be false denials of the Russian government while its spy unit allegedly pays Taliban-linked militants to kill American soldiers."
The claims of the President's lack of knowledge of the Russian-funded bounty program raise serious questions about the Administration's knowledge of and actions taken related to this scheme, including how the National Security Adviser, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Director of National Intelligence handled and are handling their respective roles and responsibilities.
The intelligence related to this alleged bounty program was reportedly discussed during a March 2020 interagency meeting at the White House and was included in a written version of one of President Trump's Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB). On Wednesday, the Administration officials briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Unfortunately, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) briefing by Trump Administration officials altogether failed to meet even the minimum standards for briefing the committee with legislative and oversight responsibility for the Department of Defense," wrote Senators Warren and Hirono.
Noting that they are profoundly concerned about the safety and security of U.S. servicemembers and the behavior of top Administration officials, Senators Warren and Hirono asked O'Brien, Secretaries Pompeo and Esper, and Director Ratcliffe a series of questions about what President Trump knew and when, what actions have been taken and will be taken to respond to and review attacks on U.S. troops that may have been connected this alleged Russian bounty program, and whether any conversations about this scheme have occurred with their Russian counterparts including between President Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin.
U.S. Special Operations Forces are presently in Afghanistan advising the Afghan Special Security Forces on building their counter-terrorism capacity, and will continue to be in harm's way, even with the limited scope of their mission. In her letter to General Miller, Senator Warren raised questions about the activities of Special Operations Command that led to the discovery of this scheme and the steps subsequently taken to protect U.S. special operators on the ground in Afghanistan.
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