Lawmakers paralyzed over response to Russian bounty intel

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Sen. Roy Blunt said, “I think there are contradictory pieces of intelligence on this,” after a classified briefing on reported Russian bounties for American troops. | Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Members of Congress were consumed last week with reports that the Russian government was paying bounties to Taliban militants who killed U.S. troops overseas. But they now appear poised to do little — if anything — about it.

Citing disputed intelligence assessments and interagency squabbles, lawmakers emerged from top secret briefings cautious and mostly tight-lipped about the veracity of news reports suggesting that the Russians had American blood on their hands.

Those lawmakers — mostly Republicans — repeatedly stressed that there was no consensus on whether the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit, orchestrated the bounties, despite news reports from The New York Times and others that have detailed the alleged scheme with increasing specificity.

I think there are contradictory pieces of intelligence on this,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 4 GOP leader and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said after a classified briefing.

The Trump administration also appeared to sow doubt over the issue, with President Donald Trump and his aides either questioning the accuracy of the intelligence or labeling reporting on the bounties an outright hoax. And congressional Republicans recently rejected an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, written by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), that would impose new sanctions on Moscow.

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