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Senate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers

Senate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers
© Aaron Schwartz

Senate Democrats are requesting a briefing on wire transfers intercepted by U.S. intelligence connected to reports of bounties being offered by Russian forces to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

According to The New York Times, which first reported the intelligence last week, U.S. analysts concluded that large financial transfers intercepted by the U.S. were likely bounties from the GRU, Moscow's military intelligence agency, to the Taliban. 

Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (Ohio), Jack ReedJack ReedTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up MORE (R.I.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (N.J.) — the Democratic ranking members of the Senate Banking, Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, respectively — are asking to be briefed on the evidence obtained by the Department of the Treasury.

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“We request to be briefed by you directly within the next two days on these reports, including any intercept evidence developed by Treasury or other US government analysts to which FinCEN has access that would shed light on these allegations,” the lawmakers wrote in a Wednesday letter obtained by The Hill and addressed to Kenneth Blanco, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the law enforcement branch of the Treasury Department. 

According to the Times, analysts found that several Afghan businessmen who transferred money through the informal “hawala” system over the past six months served as middlemen for these transactions. 

The transfers reportedly quelled disagreements among some intelligence officials on whether the initial intelligence about Russian bounties was credible, though administration officials have consistently said the allegations are unverified.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE says he was never briefed on the intelligence, though multiple reports have indicated it was included in his written President's Daily Brief. He has described the intelligence as “not credible” and a “hoax.”

 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have asked administration officials to explain what Trump knew about the threat and when he knew it.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien told Fox News that Trump knew nothing about the reports because his briefer “decided not to” share unverified intelligence with him.