Senate Republicans are vowing to get to the bottom of bombshell reports that Russia offered bounties to Afghan militants for targeted killings of U.S. troops overseas — and suggesting that retaliation against Moscow may be in order.
Key committee chairs made clear on Monday that they will press the White House for answers about the intelligence assessments, and GOP senators pushed President Donald Trump to exact severe punishments on the Kremlin if the claims are true — even as the president asserts that he was never briefed on the matter.
“I want to understand how it’s conceivably possible that the president didn’t know. How does that possibly happen?” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said. “Number two, what is their plan to make sure that our enemies know that if you target American servicemen and women, the consequences are going to be draconian? And right now, I want to hear their plan for Taliban and GRU agents in body bags.” GRU refers to Russia’s military intelligence agency.
But some lawmakers are urging restraint, after White House officials briefed House Republicans earlier Monday and explained that there was an ongoing review of the bounty claims even before they were revealed in media reports. Senators said they would be reviewing documents related to the matter in a secure facility this week.
“It is important to be cautious on intelligence writ large, because when it’s proven to not be accurate, it can lead to things like a war or other measures that proved to be counterproductive,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters. “You pull out one little piece and you put it in the public domain and you act like it was some smoking gun situation. So that’s one of the reasons I just don’t comment on reports such as these.”