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GOP senator calls for Russian bounties briefing after reviewing intelligence

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.) said on Wednesday that after reading classified intelligence he believes the Trump administration should brief the Senate on reports that Russians offered bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to target U.S. troops in Afghanistan. 

Toomey in a statement said he had read documents made available behind closed doors but that they had raised more questions for him.

“I have reviewed the classified information regarding bounties, upon which recent news reports are based. This information raises many questions and administration officials should come before the Senate and provide a classified briefing and answer questions from all members,” Toomey said.

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“If it is concluded that Russia offered bounties to murder American soldiers, a firm American response is required in short order,” he added. 

The administration has made intelligence reports available for senators in the sensitive compartmented information facility.

The Senate Intelligence Committee also met on Wednesday with Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeProfiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers Biden considering King for director of national intelligence: report Haspel not in attendance at latest Trump intelligence briefing: reports MORE as part of a pre-scheduled meeting. And the administration is set to brief the Gang of Eight, which is made up of leadership and top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Thursday. 

But the administration has not provided the all-Senate briefing Democrats have demanded. The Senate is set to leave town for roughly two weeks on Thursday. 

The New York Times first reported Friday, followed by several other news outlets, that the intelligence community concluded months ago that a unit within the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants for attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan last year.

Trump has sought to deflect blame by claiming he was not briefed on the intelligence. Subsequent reports have said the intelligence was included in written materials in the President’s Daily Brief. 

On Wednesday, Trump called reports on the intelligence a “hoax.”

“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party,” Trump tweeted. “The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!”