Senators have already proposed harsh repercussions, including the imposition of new sanctions and the designation of Moscow as a state sponsor of terrorism, a step that the Trump administration has so far refused to take.
But some lawmakers urge restraint, after White House officials briefed House Republicans on Monday and explained that there was an ongoing review of the reward claims even before they were revealed in media reports. . Senators said they would review documents related to the matter at a secure facility this week.
“It is important to be cautious with large-scale intelligence writing, because when it is shown to be inaccurate, it can lead to things like war or other measures that turned out to be counterproductive,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), The acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told reporters. “You take out a little piece, put it in the public domain and act like it’s a smoking gun situation. That’s one of the reasons why I just don’t comment on reports like these. “
Republican Senate pressure on the White House could reopen a gap between Trump and Republicans when it comes to the U.S. relationship with Moscow. Republicans in Congress, including Rubio and other Republican leaders, have generally shown more dislike and distrust of Russia than the President.
In addition to the Monday afternoon briefing for House Republicans, a group of House Democrats is slated to host a briefing on Tuesday morning. But as of Monday night, senators had no official information on when they would get the full story of what lawmakers described as a scandalous plot to assassinate US troops.
When asked if there was any progress in scheduling a briefing, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Said bluntly: “No.” Senate Republicans said Monday they will continue to push for a classified briefing.
“I think it is up to the administration to report to Congress, and they are in the process of doing so,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.).
“I want to get the facts. Does it surprise me about Putin? He is our adversary, he supports Iran, he is a bully, “added Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
Meanwhile, Trump has been on the defensive over initial reports. He attacked the media for reporting on the intelligence assessments and offered no words of condemnation for the Kremlin, which Democratic leaders emphasized by calling briefings for all members of Congress.
Also, many Republicans don’t seem to be taking the White House’s rejection to the letter, and some argue that the President should have been briefed on such a serious issue as this. Democrats, meanwhile, have highlighted Trump’s efforts to readmit Russia to the Group of Eight summit nations amid initial reports that he received information about the alleged reward offers, but did nothing in response.
Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), The vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said the dire experience “raises huge questions about why this administration continues to kneel before Putin and Russia.”
A western defense official confirmed to POLITICO on Monday that Russia’s GRU offered rewards for American and British coalition fighters in Afghanistan. The New York Times first reported on the U.S. intelligence assessment, adding that Trump was briefed on the matter earlier this year.
The White House has offered conflicting responses in the wake of initial reports, followed by stories from the New York Times and the Washington Post that at least one and possibly several members of the US service were killed as a result of the rewards.
Since then, Trump has denied that he was informed, and John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, backed that claim. The president later said that his intelligence officials told him that the reward offers were not credible, but White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that “there was no consensus within the intelligence community.” Due to dissenting views on the accuracy of the assessment, one opinion some Republican lawmakers emphasized.
“I don’t think it should surprise anyone that the Taliban have been trying to kill Americans and that the Russians have been encouraging that, if they have not provided the means for that to happen,” said Senator John Cornyn (Republican of Texas), who sits on the Intelligence Committee.
Cornyn also defended Trump for his claim that he was never informed about the intelligence assessment, adding: “I think the president cannot recall everything on his own, I am sure he has reported it.” But intelligence officers are familiar with that and reported it. “
Despite the White House stance, Republican senators are rallying around efforts to punish Russia. Senator Cory Gardner (Republican of Colorado), one of the most vulnerable Republicans for reelection this year, renewed his pressure for legislation that would pressure the State Department to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Senator Thom Tillis (RN.C.), who is also facing a reelection battle this year, appeared to support Gardner’s push.
Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) Wrote a separate letter to Trump on Monday urging him to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for the alleged rewards.
“Depending on where the events lead, there should be no invitation for the Russian Federation to rejoin the G7 and it should impose sanctions directly on both President Putin and the Minister for Foreign Affairs [Sergey] Lavrov, ”Young wrote.
Young also said he was “alarmed” at the idea that Trump and relevant congressional committees were left in the dark about intelligence assessments, and urged Trump to take punitive measures against his own officials if they did not report it.
“I am prepared to hold any member of your administration responsible for their gross negligence in carrying out such a grave responsibility,” Young wrote.
A handful of House Republicans who attended the White House briefing on Monday received a markedly different response. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) Accused the New York Times of using “unconfirmed” intelligence in an ongoing investigation to “stain” Trump, saying the newspaper has “blood” on his hands and tainted an investigation ongoing on the accuracy of the claims, a position that Graham echoed.
“Sad, but many in the media and Congress were quick to judge [sic] before learning the whole story. We should treat @nytimes stories of anonymous origin about Russia with skepticism, “Banks wrote on Twitter.
But the lead member of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and the Speaker of the House Republican Party Conference, Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Came out with a different opinion, saying in a joint statement that “they remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have attacked US forces.”
“It has been clear for some time that Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan,” added the lawmakers. “We believe it is important to vigorously seek any information related to Russia or any other country directed at our forces.”