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Lawmakers press for answers on Russian bounty offers to Taliban to kill US troops

Democrats and Republicans in Congress demanded on Monday that US intelligence agencies promptly share with lawmakers what they know about a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan, and threatened to retaliate against the Kremlin.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, each requested that all lawmakers be briefed on the matter and for CIA and other intelligence officials to explain how President Trump was informed of intelligence collected about the plot. Trump has said he was not made aware of an intelligence assessment about the plot; officials have said that it was briefed to the highest levels of the White House .

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According to two officials familiar with the matter, American officials had provided a written briefing in late February to Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants.

The new information emerged as the White House tried on Monday to play down the intelligence assessment. But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.

The investigation into the suspected Russian covert operation has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.

In the Republican-controlled Senate, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chair of the Armed Services Committee, said he had asked for information and expected to know more on the matter “in the coming days.”

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Members of Congress were caught off guard on Friday when The New York Times first reported that US intelligence had found that a Russian military intelligence unit had secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants. National Security Council officials met in March to discuss the intelligence, but the White House has taken no known action in response.

The Times further reported on Sunday that US intelligences officers and Special Operations forces in the country had informed their superiors of the suspected Russian plot as early as January, after a large amount of US cash was seized in a raid on a Taliban outpost.