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Pelosi requests House briefing on reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked top intelligence leaders on Monday to brief House members on reports that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The state of play: While President Trump has denied being briefed on the alleged intelligence, press reports indicate that he was aware of it earlier this year and that the National Security Council discussed the issue at an interagency meeting in late March.

Updated Jun 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump: Intelligence didn't find Russian bounties on U.S. troops claim credible

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Sunday night that officials didn't brief him on alleged intelligence that a Russian military spy unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan because "they did not find this info credible."

Why it matters: Kremlin involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the death of American troops would mark a massive escalation in the U.S.-Russian relationship. Trump has already faced intense criticism over reports that he knew about the intelligence and took no action.

Top Republican demands answers from White House over reports of Russian bounties

Liz Cheney. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) tweeted on Sunday morning that the Trump administration must provide answers about media reports that U.S. intelligence found that a Russian military spy unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: Cheney, the chair of the House Republican Conference, is the highest-ranking GOP figure in Congress to question the White House on the explosive reports of Russian bounties, which — if true — would mark a major escalation in U.S.-Russian relations.

Jun 25, 2020 - World

In Russia's constitutional referendum, Putin seeks 16 more years

In Putin’s Russia, the parade comes before the election. Photo: Sergey Pyatakov/Host Photo Agency via Getty

Russians began voting Thursday on the most significant package of constitutional changes since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Why it matters: The most significant of all is the clearing of President Vladimir Putin's term limits to allow him to remain in power until 2036.

Jun 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

John Bolton: Putin thinks he can play Trump "like a fiddle"

Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Former national security adviser John Bolton said in an excerpt of an upcoming interview with ABC's "This Week" Wednesday that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks he can play President Trump "like a fiddle," adding: "I think he sees that he's not faced with a serious adversary here."

Why it matters: This is the first on-camera interview that features Bolton since explosive excerpts from his tell-all memoir were published on Wednesday. Bolton alleges — among other things — that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help with his re-election.

Jun 16, 2020 - World

Turning tide in Libya's war leaves foreign powers scrambling

Fighters loyal to the Tripoli government, near Sirte. Photo: Mucahit Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

With renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar's fighters retreating from Libya’s capital and militias supporting the UN-backed government on the offensive, the foreign countries powering Libya’s civil war are scrambling to adjust to a new reality.

The big picture: Russia, the UAE, Egypt and to a lesser extent France embraced the idea of a secular strongman taking control in Libya after years of chaos. But Haftar's offensive turned into a yearlong stalemate, and now a string of embarrassing defeats.

Jun 15, 2020 - World

Russia sentences American Paul Whelan to 16 years in prison on spying charges

Paul Whelan holds up a message inside a defendants' cage in Moscow. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

A Russian court sentenced on Monday American businessman Paul Whelan to 16 years in prison on spying charges, the AP reports.

The state of play: Whelan, a 50-year-old corporate security executive and Marine Corps veteran, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018. He and his brother, David, argue the charge is political and that he was set up.

Why Russia will keep poking America’s racial wounds

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 2020 election will bring more Russian-backed online disinformation campaigns aiming to exploit American protests over police brutality and systemic racism in order to foment division and distrust, experts predict.

Where it stands: There’s nothing new about Russia’s tactics — its intelligence agencies have been using disinformation to cynically aggravate U.S. racial tensions all the way back to the Cold War era. But we can’t resolve this problem with cyber countermeasures and informational defenses. It will require actually tackling the root problem of racial injustice itself.

Jun 2, 2020 - World

Trump's G7 counterparts aren't ready to invite Putin back in

"I'm back." Putin at the G20 in 2019. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/AFP via Getty Images

Trump and Vladimir Putin discussed plans for September's G7 summit today.

Why it matters: That may sound unusual, until you recall that Russia was expelled from the then-G8 in 2014 over its invasion of Crimea.

Jun 1, 2020 - World

Kremlin says Trump discussed inviting Russia to G7 in call with Putin

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their bilateral meeting at the G20 Osaka Summit 2019, in Osaka, Japan in 2019. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Monday about Trump's plans to expand September's G7 meeting in Washington to include Russia, according to the Russian government's readout of the call.

The big picture: The phone call between the two leaders, which the Kremlin says was initiated by Trump, comes amid six consecutive days of mass unrest in the U.S. over police brutality and racial inequality. The White House confirmed the call took place and said a readout was forthcoming.