Utah’s Stewart wades into debate over Russian bounties to kill US troops
SALT LAKE CITY — Bipartisan anger from lawmakers erupted in Washington this week over reports that the Trump administration had known about Russia’s secretive military intelligence service, the GRU, offering bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan but did nothing about the payments nor confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Donald Trump denied being briefed about the Russian bounties.
Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!! https://t.co/cowOmP7T1S
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2020
…Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration. With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine – Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their “source”?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2020
President briefed on Russian bounties, reports N.Y. Times
The New York Times reports US officials intercepted electronic data showing financial transfers from a bank account controlled by the GRU to a Taliban-linked account, evidence that supported their conclusion that Russia covertly offered the bounties, according to three officials familiar with the intelligence.
The Times further reported that two officials familiar with the matter said President Trump received a written briefing in late February that the GRU was paying bounties to Taliban fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
Russia and the Taliban have denied the intelligence findings.
Stewart says Dems given same info
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, who is on the House Intelligence Committee, says the president was not briefed.
The unverified information about the Russian bounties was available to leading Democrats in “much the same format” that the White House received it, but they didn’t pick up on it, either, Stewart told CNN’s “Prime Time” with Chris Cuomo Monday night.
“Nancy Pelosi had this presented to her as well in much the same format. So did Adam Schiff. All of us did. It was in the general intelligence analysis that we were seeing on a daily or weekly basis. None of them picked it out and wanted to pursue it, either,” Stewart said, according to cnsnews.com.
Stewart discussed his stance in an interview with Dave & Dujanovic host Dave Noriega, with former Rep. Mia Love filling in for Debbie Dujanovic.
“Not only do I contend the president wasn’t briefed, it’s just a fact that he wasn’t briefed,” Stewart told Noriega and Love.
“The CIA has said the same thing. The director of National Intelligence has said the same thing,” Stewart said.
“Russia is not our friend”
Stewart said the bigger part of the story is recognizing what Russia’s intentions are and confronting Moscow.
“Russia is not our friend. Russia seeks to diminish and kill Americans,” he said.
“When does this reach a level where we have to address this [Russian bounties]? This is serious and concerning,” Love asked Stewart.
Stewart said the intelligence on Russian bounties never reached the level of credibility to bring it to the president. The representative added that President Trump would never ignore intel that threatened US troops.
“It’s just one of many, many things that we’re tracking and determine what is real and what is actually eminent,” Stewart said.
Stewart: Not surprised by Russia
“Is it a possibility that perhaps he [President Trump] was aware of it but didn’t feel like it had risen to the level where we have to act on it?” Dave asked.
“I’m certain that this is true: The president was simply unaware of this,” Stewart said. “It was part of a much larger intelligence product. Something like 40 or 50 or 60 pages that comes out every day that’s made available to all of the secretaries, all of the Cabinet members–”
“Including the Speaker of the House,” Love interjected.
“Yeah, exactly. This is the information available to the Congress,” Stewart said. “This was something broadly available. It wasn’t just something specific for the president that no one else had. Once again to your point, Dave, it just didn’t reach the level of credibility. We just don’t know if it’s true or not. Still don’t know if it’s true.
“Would it surprise me that Russia was doing this? Absolutely not. I’d frankly be surprised if they weren’t doing it,” Stewart said.
He added that the United States cannot confront other nations about intel that hasn’t been verified.
Stewart said that now that this news story is out in the open, it’ll be much easier for Russia to cover its tracks and much harder to establish the facts behind it to mount an investigation.
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