Rep. Jim Banks accused The New York Times of endangering U.S. troops with their reports of Russia offering bounties to Afghan militants to kill U.S. soldiers.
Mr. Banks, Indiana Republican, argued Friday that The Times’ report was framed to make President Trump as if “somehow he was turning a blind eye to these bounties.”
“The fact of the matter is because a leaker went to the New York Times and they published this ongoing intelligence of these possible bounties, now we might not ever know the truth and we might not ever be able to hold those [responsible] accountable,” he said on Fox News.
“If the intelligence does check out and it was true — that’s what I mean, the New York Times, by publishing this story, has the blood on their hands of any lives lost in Afghanistan due to the bounties,” he added. “We’re never going to know the truth because the Russians at this point have shredded the evidence.”
Mr. Banks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, argued it could have been worse if career intelligence officers gave the president intelligence that turned out later to be faulty.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, disagreed, arguing that the intelligence didn’t need to be 100% vetted before going before the president.
“One thing that often happens with regard to the intelligence community is that they give intelligence, in which they have high or moderate confidence in and then there are dissenting views as well … so decision-makers, in this case the president, so that he or she is able to make a certain determination about what to do,” Mr. Krishnamoorthi, Illinois Democrat, said on Fox News.
“We still have a lot of questions that deserve answers and the investigation continues,” he added.
Leaders on Capitol Hill have received classified intelligence hearings on the reports last week.
While the reports said Mr. Trump was briefed on the matter and the administration was aware as early as March, the White House maintains that the president was never informed about the issue as it was uncorroborated at the time.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer have brushed aside the administration’s explanation, arguing this kind of threat would have merited attention from the president.
“Our Armed Forces would be better served if President Trump spent more time reading his daily briefing and less time planning military parades and defending relics of the Confederacy,” they wrote in a letter.