It all started when The New York Times (NYT) ran an article that alleged Russian intelligence operatives in Afghanistan had offered the Taliban a bounty for killing U.S. and U.S.-led coalition soldiers. As the story goes, “American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan – including targeting American troops.” Liberty Nation has questioned the value of relying on uncorroborated intelligence out of context in the recent past.
But the story goes on to assert that both President Trump and Vice President Pence were briefed on these Russian-sponsored activities and kept it to themselves, not taking any action. The only problem is that the White House press secretary responded that both President Trump and VP Pence deny having ever been briefed. Furthermore, those from the intelligence community who would have done the briefing, said they did not brief either of them.
We are told now by the same NYT that, well, maybe they weren’t verbally “briefed” after all – but that the information was “included in a written briefing.” And we find out from the NYT that maybe it wasn’t a Russian intelligence unit that made the payments, but “a lowly drug smuggler,” who “then ventured into contracting” to get a slice of the money the U.S. was pouring into Afghanistan. The changing narrative gives more credence to President Trump’s slamming of the NYT in a tweet: “The Russian Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican party.”
To muddy the “accurate intelligence” waters more, as the NYT tells us, the Russians deny the story. So does Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban. Never mind all these assertions that contradict the story, the mere mention of the country “Russia” has driven the Dems in Congress over the edge again.
To make their point public via C-SPAN, the tag-team of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) invoked the specter of a matter of “national security” in calling for “in-person” briefings from the intelligence agencies. Doubling down, according to Tyler Olson at Fox News, Hoyer railed:
“Over the weekend, we learned of allegations that our intelligence services assessed in March that Russia has been offering a monetary reward for killing American troops in Afghanistan. Outrageously, it appears that President Trump has taken no action since that time, not even warning the Russian government to stop.”
As we start to unpack this story, The Federalist authors Sean Davis and Mollie Hemingway tell us that while “shifty Schiff,” as the president likes to call the man, is decrying Trump’s egregious dereliction of office by not taking action immediately after being briefed-not briefed on the “bounty for U.S. troops” story. But guess who was briefed, told no one, and did nothing? And the answer is, drum roll, please … Representative Adam Schiff. Chairman Schiff was briefed in February 2020, a full month before Hoyer claims President Trump was supposed to have been briefed on the subject.
Such hypocrisy, you say. Like Captain Renault said in the film Casablanca, “I’m shocked to find that gambling is going on in here,” as the croupier hands the good captain his winnings. Whether or not the president or the vice president were verbally briefed on the bounty for killing U.S. troops is not the point.
The real problem is that Democrats will use any excuse to badger and distract President Trump’s administration from doing the nation’s business. As a foreign policy issue, if true – and there is no consensus that it is – Russia paying the Taliban to kill U.S. and coalition forces should be troubling. But wasting time briefing Congress on intelligence works in progress is never useful. In most cases, such briefings become opportunities for anti-Trump intelligence committee members to leak the classified substance, if not details of the briefing.
The problem for the U.S. national security policymakers is that, at this point, there is virtually no ground truth to be had on the subject. That is where the inquiries should be headed – getting at the truth, not just another beat-up-the-president fest.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
Read more from Dave Patterson.
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