Schumer Floor Remarks Demanding Immediate Answers From The Trump Admin On Reports Of Russian Bounties On U.S. Troops In Afghanistan And When The President Was First Told This Information

June 30, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, demanding immediate answers from the Trump administration following public reporting on intelligence that Russia placed bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Today, there are thousands, thousands, of American service members in Afghanistan defending us from terrorist organizations and their sponsors. They are joined by service members and support personnel from allied nations and security partners. Each one of these lives is precious to a nation and to a family somewhere. Each one of us here in this chamber recognizes the solemn duty we have to our service members.

So we are all concerned about media reports that the Russian government or its proxies has been offering bounties on the lives of American soldiers to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press has reported that the US is investigating whether any Americans died as a result of the Russian bounties, and is particularly focused on a 2019 attack that killed three US marines, including one young man from Locust Valley, New York and another who worked as a firefighter in the FDNY, the great FDNY, for 15 years. On behalf of my constituents and the American people, I demand answers.

If in fact Putin and his cronies have been sponsoring the murder of American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, there is no question that there should be swift and severe consequences.

But unlike every previous administration I’ve ever worked with, the Trump administration has been shockingly weak-kneed when it comes to authoritarian leaders like Putin. This administration appears unwilling to even acknowledge the gravity of the situation; unwilling to even express concern about these rumors and commit to investigating them.

The shifting explanations from the White House about when and how the president learned about these reports has only added to the confusion and concern here on Capitol Hill.

First, the president tweeted “nobody briefed or told me” about the reports. That's what he said, nobody “briefed” or “told” him. Then, the president hinted he was aware of these reports, but that it didn’t rise to the level of an official briefing. The White House press secretary repeatedly denied that the president had been briefed.

And then last night, the Associated Press reported that President Trump received intelligence about these potential bounties as early as spring of last year. The spring of last year.

Out of all of those different explanations, the best case—the best case—for the president is that he doesn’t read sensitive intelligence reports. You know, that’s his job.

It’s been five days since media reports informed the world of Putin’s alleged bounty program. What has the president done? He hasn’t condemned it. He hasn’t told service members and their families he will make sure this alleged program is exposed and ended. He hasn’t directed any action against Putin and his cronies whatsoever. He has done absolutely nothing. Nothing.

As the commander-in-chief, the president has no more serious and solemn duty than to do right by the Americans in uniform who protect our country. He is directly responsible (and must be held accountable) for the well-being of America’s service members who have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our country. The least President Trump could do is promise to get to the bottom of these allegations and hold Putin and his cronies accountable for their actions. Even that—even that—seems beyond the administration’s capabilities.

In the short term, we need an agreement from the administration to conduct an immediate all-members briefing on the reports that Russia placed bounties on US troops in Afghanistan. Senators need to hear directly from CIA Director Haspel on these reports as soon as possible. 

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