Lawyers React to News of Russia-Taliban Evidence

Following bombshell allegations that the Russian government offered Taliban militants secret bounties for killing U.S. troops, the Trump administration on Monday invited a bloc of eight GOP lawmakers to the White House for a briefing where administration officials insisted that there was conflicting intelligence on the matter. However, the White House reportedly refrained from divulging a key piece of evidence which legal experts say casts further doubt both on the Trump administration’s shifting explanations and the president’s claims that the entire story is a “hoax.”

According to a Tuesday report from the New York Times, U.S. intelligence officials had supported the contention that the Russian military was running a bounty program with intercepted electronic data “showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account.”

According to the Times report, which was sourced to three officials familiar with the intelligence, “

“The disclosures further undercut White House officials’ claim that the intelligence was too uncertain to brief President Trump,” the report went on to say. “In fact, the information was provided to him in his daily written brief in late February, two officials have said.”

The Pentagon said Monday that there was “no corroborating evidence” to support the Times’s reporting. The Pentagon statement, which was obtained by Fox News:

To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports. Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan—and around the world—most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.

University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck, a noted expert in national security law and military justice, condemned the administration’s apparent decision to intentionally mislead lawmakers.

“It’s almost impressive how the Trump White House keeps making this series of scandals *worse*,” Vladeck commented. “It’s bad enough that they lied all weekend about what they knew and when; now it turns out that they even misled the hand-picked congressional Republicans who they ‘briefed’ yesterday.”

It’s almost impressive how the Trump White House keeps making this series of scandals *worse*.

It’s bad enough that they lied all weekend about what they knew and when; now it turns out that they even misled the hand-picked congressional Republicans who they “briefed” yesterday. https://t.co/nztQKb1imx

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) June 30, 2020

Los Angeles Times legal affairs columnist, attorney and law professor Harry Litman, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said that under normal circumstances, revelations like this would prompt serious talk of impeachment.

“Beginning of trail was intercept of bank data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account. 2 officials confirm Trump was briefed. In a different time, we’d be talking impeachment,” Litman wrote.

Beginning of trail was intercept of bank data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account. 2 officials confirm Trump was briefed. In a different time, we’d be talking impeachment.

— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) June 30, 2020

Former Intelligence Community attorney Susan Hennessey said additional intel leaks were caused by the administration’s “lies.”

This is yet another example of the Trump administration lies about classified information causing additional leaks. https://t.co/iwilLb19eL

— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) June 30, 2020

“Looks like Trump administration kept this corroborating intel even from the Republican lawmakers briefed yesterday,” NYU law Prof. Ryan Goodman said, pointing to the Times story.

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe called the Trump administration’s reported actions “stupefyingly stupid.”

Staggering — and stupefyingly stupid — Trump attempt at concealment in #BountyGate https://t.co/zmUf9amJn7

— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) June 30, 2020

Republicans have said that Democrats have hypocritically been “politicizing intelligence.”

It’s inaccurate. Stop politicizing intelligence. https://t.co/kHiI0YTDKi

— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) June 28, 2020

Ironically many of those now politicizing the recent report in the NYT questioned,disputed &/or downplayed indisputable proof that #Soleimani had a long track record of targeting & killing American troops. They pick & choose what to believe based on partisan politics.

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 29, 2020

The real scandal: We’ll likely never know the truth… Because the @nytimes used unconfirmed intel in an ONGOING investigation into targeted killing of American soldiers in order to smear the President. The blood is on their hands.

— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) June 29, 2020

Democrats say that Republicans, particularly those who were not told about data evidence, should direct their anger at President Donald Trump.

Good point @RepSwalwell. Also, I note that this new article shows @WhiteHouse withheld information from @RepJimBanks & other @GOP Members at their briefing yesterday. I’m thinking perhaps he should direct his anger at @realDonaldTrump. What do you think?https://t.co/ZXvIDXCw1a https://t.co/zvAkMbDVXq

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 30, 2020

(image via Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

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