Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, R- Schuylerville, was included in a White House briefing Monday regarding the recent revelations that Russian operatives offered cash bounties to the Taliban for killing coalition forces, including Americans, in Afghanistan.
In a story first reported by The New York Times on Friday, it was revealed that the GRU, a Russian intelligence agency, had been offering cash rewards as recently as last year to Taliban-linked forces for every confirmed kill of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Members of Congress from both parties swiftly demanded answers from the Trump administration, as none of the members who usually receive intelligence briefings were aware of the bounties before The New York Times article was released.
A group of senior lawmakers was briefed Monday at the White House on the alleged intelligence reports, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded a briefing for the full House of Representatives, Bloomberg News reported.
Stefanik had remained silent on the issue until Monday, when she issued a statement that did not directly address the report but listed some of the administration’s actions taken against Russia for other transgressions, including the expelling of Russian intelligence officers, closing Russian consulates and increasing funding for the European Defense Initiative.
“As the Representative and Chief Advocate in Congress for Fort Drum and the soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed unit in the Army, I will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that our number one priority is force protection and protecting our national security — especially our brave men and women in uniform,” she said in her statement. “I anticipate additional briefings on this important matter in Afghanistan and my focus is on ensuring the safety and security of our troops.”
The administration said Monday that President Donald J. Trump had not been briefed on the topic before The New York Times story was published, as the information had not been “verified.”
Stefanik’s early silence garnered criticism from her opposition in the race for the NY-21 House of Representatives seat, Tedra Cobb.
“Cong. Stefanik sits on The House Intelligence Committee and The House Armed Services Committee,” Cobb said in a statement on Sunday. “Her silence is a complete abdication of her duty to protect the brave men and women of the 10th Mountain Division.”
Cobb went on to request that Stefanik immediately join her Republican colleagues and call for an independent investigation into Russia and the Trump administration’s handling of the case.
Ms. Stefanik did not formally call for an investigation Monday into Russia itself or the Trump administration’s handling of the case.