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Pompeo called before House panel over Russian bounty claims

06 Jul 2020 TheHill

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has invited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to appear before a hearing on how the Trump administration responded to reports that U.S. intelligence was aware of Russia offering bounties to Taliban-backed fighters to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan. 

The hearing is set to take place on Thursday. It is titled “Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops: Why Hasn’t the Administration Responded?”

Pompeo is listed as “invited” to the hearing. The State Department and the House committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he had confirmed he would attend.

The other witness for the hearing is expected to be Michael Morell, former acting and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration. 

President Trump and administration officials have sought to downplay reporting last month by The New York Times and The Washington Post that said the U.S. intelligence community had concluded months ago that an arm of the Russian military intelligence service had offered financial incentives to Taliban-backed fighters to kill U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. 

The president has said he was not briefed on the Russian threats because the intelligence was not credible. Yet he’s received bipartisan pushback from lawmakers demanding answers over the threats and the administration’s response. 

Pompeo has pushed back on the bounty claims, accusing journalists of spreading misinformation about such intelligence reports and defending the administration’s policy towards Russia. 

“I can assure you, that whatever reporting it is that you’re referring to, that we responded in precisely the correct way,” he told reporters at a press briefing at the State Department last week. 

“The fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new,” he said. “We took this seriously, we handled it appropriately.”

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