Senate Republicans Defend Trump’s Response To Russian Bounties Intel

Republican senators following the senate luncheon in March 2020.Screengrab / PBS NewsHour / YouTube


He would “absolutely not” be surprised by a Russian bounty, but McConnell doesn’t think the intel “made it to the top.”

The Hill reports that after President Donald J. Trump received criticism for a lukewarm response to apparent news that American intelligence that Russia may be paying bounties to militants in Afghanistan for the deaths of United States soldiers, some Senate Republicans are defending his response.

  • Trump has dismissed the “Russia Bounty story” reported by the New York Times as “just another made up by Fake News tale” and suggested the Times’ anonymous source “probably does not even exist, just like the story itself.”
  • Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) said on June 29 that the White House needed to be more “serious” in its response after he was reportedly flooded with calls from concerned Nebraskans.
  • However, by June 30 other Republican senators began to “rally around Trump,” after being briefed at the White House by John Ratcliffe and Robert O’Brien, the Director of National Intelligence and National Security Advisor respectively, the Hill explains.
  • Republican lawmakers who attended this briefing have said that media reports are based on “unverified” intelligence and are “inaccurate.”
  • They also argue that Democrats on the Intelligence committee had access to the same information that Trump had and yet were similarly unalarmed, implying there may be a political motive to the controversy.
  • Senator Todd Young (R-ID) said, “Every single member, Republican and Democrat alike, of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is aware, should have been aware of the intelligence that I was briefed on. It’s long been available.”
  • And Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) said, “The main point is the intelligence was not verified” and “wasn’t at the level of actionable intelligence. It wasn’t at the level that they notified the president. And quite honestly it wasn’t at the level that—congressional leaders had access to the exact same intelligence, that alarmed them either.”
  • After the Times released another article reporting that intercepted electronic financial data corroborated the Russian bounty story, Johnson replied that that information had not been part of the White House briefing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday afternoon,

Would I be surprised if the Russians were doing something like this? Absolutely not. They’re trying to create a problem for us everywhere.

… I don’t have an observation about what may have happened in the past, but listening to the people who have been briefed, it appears as if this is not a conclusion that’s been reached to such a level that it might have even made it to the top.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democrats have “ripped” Trump over the issue. Schumer said,

If in fact Putin and his cronies have been sponsoring the murder of American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, there is no question that there should be swift and severe consequences.

But unlike every previous administration I’ve ever worked with, the Trump administration has been shockingly weak-kneed when it comes to authoritarian leaders like Putin.

An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would impose sanctions on Russia if it interferes in the 2020 election is anticipated. However, discussion of whether to add language to the amendment that would address the bounty allegations is “ rapidly breaking down along party lines,” the Hill reports.

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