Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are demanding answers after a flurry of reports revealed the intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia offered bounties to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The uproar includes a chorus of Republicans who are typically reticent to confront President Trump, who has sought to deflect blame and responsibility by arguing he was not briefed on the intelligence that he claims is not credible.
But congressional Republicans and Democrats — calling the reported Russian operation “egregious” and “disturbing” — say Trump’s explanations only raise more questions that the administration must answer immediately.
“Anything with any hint of credibility that would endanger our service members, much less put a bounty on their lives, to me, should have been briefed immediately to the commander in chief and a plan to deal with that situation,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.
Thornberry, who added that the bipartisan “insistence to see the intelligence” is “even stronger nonpublicly” than it has been publicly, echoed other military leaders who have expressed incredulousness that such intelligence did not reach the commander in chief.
On Monday, the White House briefed at least seven Republicans: Thornberry, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (Texas), and Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Banks (Ind.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), a source familiar with the meeting said.
A group of House Democrats will also be getting a briefing at the White House on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) confirmed in a statement Monday evening.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter Monday to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel requesting a full House briefing, saying that “Congress and the country need answers now.” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) released his own statement, making the same request for the two intelligence leaders to immediately brief senators.
Thornberry and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) have also demanded a briefing from the Pentagon for their full committee this week, but Thornberry and a Democratic committee spokesperson said they have not received a response from the Defense Department.