Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops
Senators will have access to intelligence documents related to reporting that Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU, offered bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The broad access senators will have to classified documents that were previously reserved for members of the Senate Intelligence Committee reflects the intense concern building on Capitol Hill over a bombshell report published by The New York Times on Friday.
“I do understand that multiple documents … are being made available to senators in a secure room. I just got that note as I was coming over here,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who said she would “hope” that senators receive a briefing.
“I think it’s important to understand the facts behind it,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday morning called for Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel to brief all 100 senators on reports of Russia offering bounties on U.S. troops.
“We need to know whether or not President Trump was told this information, and if so, when,” Schumer said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Ratcliffe and Haspel on Monday asking them to brief all House members.
“The questions that arise are: was the president briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed,” she wrote.
The White House briefed House Republican lawmakers on the issue Monday and is expected to brief House Democrats on Tuesday morning.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters Monday afternoon that he was not aware of any Senate briefings.
“We need to be very careful about how we discuss intelligence because if you’re not a regular consumer of it, as most people are not, you don’t understand how it works. The notion of a smoking gun and intelligence are rare,” he told reporters.
Rubio warned against jumping to conclusions because intelligence sometimes represents a best guess instead of a rock-solid fact.
“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,” he said.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, indicated Monday that the topic is not new to members of his panel.
“There are a lot of us in SSCI who have already spent time on this topic in the past,” he said, using the acronym for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “The Congress and particularly the SSCI needs to do a lot more.”
Sasse clarified that “I’m not confirming any facts.”
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