Schiff and Swalwell went all in on the dubious Russia bounty story to slam Trump

Chuck Ross, DCNF

  • Two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee hyped news reports last year that President Donald Trump turned a blind eye to intelligence that said the Russian government was paying bounties to Taliban fighters to kill American troops. 
  • On Thursday, the Biden administration dealt the theory a major blow, saying that the U.S. intelligence community has only “low to moderate confidence” that the intelligence is accurate. 
  • Schiff and Swalwell were also leading proponents of the since-debunked claim that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. 

Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, hyped reports last year that the Russian government paid bounties to kill American soldiers, an allegation that the Biden administration now says is based on inconclusive intelligence.

Schiff and Swalwell, along with other Democrats, used reports of the alleged bounty payments to accuse President Donald Trump of turning a blind eye to Russian aggression against the U.S.

Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence panel, accused Trump and other Republicans of refusing to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over the alleged bounties. In a tweet on Aug. 27, Schiff said that their silence put U.S. troops “in danger.”

“Americans are outraged by reports that Russia offered bounties on U.S. troops,” Schiff tweeted on July 2.

“The only American who isn’t? Donald Trump. Trump is again taking the Kremlin’s side and calling it a hoax.”

Swalwell accused Trump of not supporting U.S. troops, saying that the Republican “hasn’t said shit about serious allegations Russia is paying bounties to kill them.”

The two Democrats, who also pushed since-debunked theories of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, were responding to reports first published by The New York Times.

On June 26, The Times reported that U.S. officials believed that Russian intelligence had paid Taliban operatives to kill American troops in Afghanistan. What’s more, according to the initial Times report, Trump had been briefed on the intelligence but had done nothing in response.

Cracks soon emerged in the story. For one, Trump was not directly briefed on any intelligence regarding bounty payments, The Times subsequently reported. Some intelligence was included in a presidential daily brief that was reportedly not communicated to Trump.

Some U.S. officials, including military officials, also doubted the credibility of the intelligence.

The Biden administration appears to broadly concur with the Trump administration’s interpretation of the intelligence.

On Thursday, U.S. officials told reporters that the intelligence community has “low to medium” confidence in the allegations.

“The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier,” a U.S. official told reporters Thursday.

Officials say that the intelligence came from “detainee reporting,” suggesting that captured Taliban fighters were the source for the bounty claim.

Schiff’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the Biden administration’s assessment.

Schiff and Swalwell’s past comments about the bounty allegation are listed below:

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