Schumer Floor Remarks Demanding Answers & An All Senators Briefing On Reports Of Russian Bounties On U.S. Troops In Afghanistan

June 29, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, demanding all Senators receive an immediate briefing following public reporting that Russia placed bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and calling for public answers as to the extent of President Trump’s knowledge of this reported intelligence. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Now on Russia. On Friday, the New York Times and other media outlets reported that a Russian intelligence unit was offering Taliban-linked fighters bounties—bounties—to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

It should go without saying that it is our solemn obligation to support and protect our troops. If Russian intelligence is conducting a shadow campaign to sponsor the murder of American troops, there must be swift, strong, and unmistakable consequences for Putin and his cronies, something we should do in this NDAA bill.

The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was aware of these activities as early as March of this year. And yet, the Trump administration has authorized no—no—retaliatory actions.

Russia gives bounties to kill Americans? The administration does nothing? President Donald Trump, you're not being a very strong president here—as usual.

At the very least, you would expect the president and his team would want to get to the bottom of this. The president claimed, however, that “nobody briefed or told [me]” about this report.

President Trump, you lose either way. If you weren't briefed on this important report, how can you run an administration where something this important is not brought to your level? And if you were told about the report and did nothing, that's even worse. Shame on you. Shame on you.

A few hours ago, the White House press secretary said the president still has not received a briefing from the Intelligence community about these reports. The White House Chief of Staff, meanwhile, is reportedly briefing Republican members of the House before the President of the United States gets a briefing.

Isn’t that amazing?  He's the Commander-in-Chief. He's the one who's supposed to be protecting our soldiers. And his administration is still twiddling its thumbs instead of giving him a briefing, which, who knows, given his lack of respect for the truth, he may have received already and just denied it.

So it raises many, many questions. First, is it true the president was not ‘told’ this information? If so, why not? Was there a concern about sharing this information with the president? And the president doesn’t seem as outraged as you would think he would be if, in fact, the intelligence community had this vital and important information and had not briefed him.

Something—something—doesn’t smell right here, especially when we have a president and an administration who has a great deal of trouble telling the truth. We need answers and we need them fast.

So I am calling for the Directors of National Intelligence and the CIA to immediately brief all 100 Senators on reports that Russia placed bounties on US troops in Afghanistan. Among many other things, we need to know whether or not President Trump was told this information, and if so, when.

Because there has been an alarming pattern in this administration, dating back to its very first days, of appeasement towards authoritarian leaders, especially Vladimir Putin. President Trump stood next to Putin on the international stage and accepted his word over the word of our own intelligence agencies. President Trump has delayed or ignored congressionally mandated sanctions on Putin. The president has pondered withdrawing from NATO – the organization whose very purpose is to defend the free world from Vladimir Putin. Only a few months ago, the president mused about inviting Russia back into the G7.

If we're learned anything from the past three years, it’s that President Trump is inclined to ignore or forgive Vladimir Putin’s abuses on the international stage—even in the face of an attack on our democracy.

If we learned anything in the last three years, it's that dictators, whether Chairman Xi or Chairman Kim or President Putin play President Trump for a fool and get the advantage over him every time.

This means we all need to speak up right now and make sure that Congress and the Executive Branch is doing what’s necessary to get to the bottom of these reports. The first step is a briefing for all 100 Senators.

Despite what some administration officials are claiming, no such briefing has been scheduled, and I’m currently not aware of any Senator who has been invited to a White House briefing of any sort.