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Congress Wants Answers From Trump On Russian Bounties In Afghanistan

Lawmakers demand answers about reported bounties Russia paid to Afghan insurgents to kill U.S. troops. Democrats are headed to the White House Tuesday after several Republicans were briefed Monday.

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Transcript:

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Who in the Trump administration knew what and when? A group of House Democrats went to the White House this morning hoping to find out. They received a briefing on reports that Russia offered bounties to fighters in Afghanistan to kill U.S. and coalition troops. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been covering this story. Good morning.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What do Democrats say they learned?

GRISALES: So they didn't learn that much. That's what we're hearing from them. They say that everything they heard is everything they already knew. They raised concerns that the right briefers weren't in the room. I'm told by a Democratic aide they included White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, national security adviser Robert O'Brien and the director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe. And what these Democrats said they wanted to hear from is folks from the intelligence community, such as CIA Director Gina Haspel.

And so we continue to hear more questions from members. And they say there's still a lot more answers they're waiting on in all. Nearly a dozen members joined Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to take in the briefing. Among them was Adam Schiff. He's chairman of the Intelligence Committee. And he says he remains highly concerned the administration hasn't done more already to respond to these reports. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM SCHIFF: I find it inexplicable in light of these very public allegations that the president hasn't come before the country and assured the American people that he will get to the bottom of whether Russians are putting a bounty on the heads of American troops.

GRISALES: Members said they're still not clear if President Trump was briefed or not, if it happened verbally or through a daily briefing. And some members outright doubted the claims that he was not briefed. Members conceded there's various levels of confidence with these intelligence reports. But it should have been shared with Trump, since the president talks with Putin regularly.

INSKEEP: It's interesting. John Ratcliffe was there. He's the director of national intelligence. But that was not - he's not a career intelligence person. That's who they seem to have wanted to have heard from.

GRISALES: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Democrats are hoping that all of Congress will be briefed on this. Is that likely to happen?

GRISALES: Right now, Democrats said they didn't get any assurances today. For example, Hoyer said he brought this up repeatedly in today's meeting and wasn't assured that it is going to happen. Usually at this stage of these kind of reports, the top leaders of Congress, the so-called Gang of Eight - they're briefed on these possible threats. And that hasn't happened yet. So Democrats say they'll continue to push for these additional details, but they likely won't be alone. Most of Congress hasn't been briefed on these reports. And the pressure is expected to increase for the administration to respond further.

INSKEEP: Key Republicans got briefed first yesterday. What are they saying?

GRISALES: So after they attended their briefing yesterday, they echoed the White House's narrative that the intelligence community's conflicted on what actually happened and they didn't necessarily think that Trump needed to be briefed. At the same time, they're calling for a response that the Intelligence Committee can further prove out these allegations. And what I'm hearing is they want to see sanctions. They want to see some kind of response. And they think it needs to be swift in some cases.

INSKEEP: Claudia, thanks for the update.

GRISALES: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.