If there was a “hint” of truth to reports that Russian agents offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill U.S. soldiers, then President Trump should have been immediately informed on the matter, Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Monday.
His comments come a day after Mr. Trump said that “nobody briefed or told me,” Vice President Mike Pence or White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows “about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source’ by the Fake News @nytimes.”
The New York Times reported Friday that U.S. intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence agents had offered the bounties to militants linked to the Taliban. The paper said Mr. Trump was briefed on the matter and that the National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March.
Speaking to reporters in a phone briefing Monday morning, Mr. Thornberry, Texas Republican and ranking member of the House panel, said the possibility of bounties put on U.S. soldiers “is on a different level from providing weapons.”
“It is so egregious that if, in my view, if there were a hint of credibility to it, then you need to bring it to the president’s attention. And there needs to be a plan on what you’re going to do, because it’s a very egregious step,” he said.
Mr. Thornberry said that while he is unsure of the credibility of the report and has not yet been briefed, the president “should have been briefed immediately.”
The congressman said committee leadership has “insisted” that the full panel be briefed on the intelligence to examine the scope of credibility and identify a timeline on when officials knew of such information.
Mr. Thornberry suggested that “it may be appropriate for people who should have briefed the president to be removed if they did not follow their responsibilities.”
Trump administration officials have denied the accusation that the president was told of bounties. Four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Afghanistan earlier this year.
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