Pelosi urges expansion of US sanctions against Russia

The United States should restore sanctions against Russian intelligence and defence sectors, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after being briefed by top intelligence officials on the Russian-Taliban bounty intelligence.

Pelosi said at a press briefing on Thursday that the White House had previously asked the Congress to “take out the sanctions on Russia that pertained to the intelligence and the defence sectors, the very sector that is accused of possible threats on our men and women in uniform”, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We must restore those sanctions and we must act upon them,” she added.

Pelosi also criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of US-Russia relations. “This is at the same time as the White House was aware of this threat to security of our men and women in uniform, the President was still flirting with the idea of having Russia be part of the G8 in total opposition to the wishes of the other members of the G8.”

CIA Director Gina Haspel earlier in the day briefed a group of senior lawmakers from both parties, known as “Gang of Eight,” on the Russian-Taliban bounty intelligence.

In a joint statement following the classified briefing, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested “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.”

The White House, however, accused the Democratic Party of politicizing this issue. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that “Democrats should come forward in good faith … and you have the Democratic Party politicizing this information, which I think is absolutely disgraceful.”

Top US officials continued defending the administration’s response to the intelligence as well as Trump’s dealing of US-Russia ties. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien stressed again on Wednesday that Trump had not been briefed on this “uncorroborated intelligence,” adding that “no one had been tougher on Russia than Trump since the end of the Cold War. “

The New York Times reported on Friday that Trump had been briefed on the intelligence that Russian intelligence units secretly offered bounties to Taliban-related militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan during US-Taliban peace talks.

The report also said that the National Security Council discussed this issue at an interagency meeting in late March, while the White House thus far has not taken any actions to respond.