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Baier presses Pompeo on bounty report: ‘Does the Russian government have American blood on its hands’?

“Specual report ” host and Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier flatly asked secretary of state Mike Pompeo Wednesday if Russia had “American blood on its hands in Afghanistan” following a New York Times report last week that U.S. intelligence had received information that Moscow had offered Taliban-linked militants bounties for killing American soldiers and President Trump had been briefed about it.

“The United States has responded appropriately to the threats that have been presented to it in Afghanistan consistently through my entire three-and-a-half years, first as the CIA director and now as Secretary of State,” Pompeo responded to Baier’s question. “There are many folks using the Taliban or who have used the Taliban over years and years and years as proxy forces. There’s been money funneled in there from all across the world, unfortunately.

“President Trump has taken this seriously. We are hopeful we’ll make progress on our peace and reconciliation plan and we will respond to any threat, whether that’s Iranians using the Taliban or the Russians … ” he added. “The Russians have been providing weapons to the Taliban for an awful lot of years, so this is an ongoing challenge.”

The White House has insisted that Trump had not been briefed on the bounty intelligence, with the president calling the Times report a “hoax.” On Monday the White House insisted there is “no consensus” that the intelligence was accurate, which is why, it said, the issue was never flagged to President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.

Baier pressed Pompeo why the president wasn’t briefed on the intelligence.

“Every morning I wake up and I read the intelligence materials and when I read them, there are people all across the world who are threatened, including my officers and embassies all across the world. We don’t always make sure that gets to the president,” Pompeo answered. “We do the right thing. We make sure the ambassador on the ground knows, that the commander on the ground knows, that our allies — who may be threatened as well — know. It is the tactical and operational response to keep our soldiers safe and secure that is most important.

“When the intelligence community feels like something rises to a level that needs to get to the president, I am very confident they will consistently present it to him,” he went on.

Pompeo also slammed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who criticized the president’s handling of the matter during a press briefing earlier this week.

“He either reads … or gets briefed on important issues and he forgets it or he doesn’t think it’s necessary that he needs to know it,” Biden said Tuesday, adding the president should “at a minimum” have called Russian President Vladimir Putin on the report.

“There’s been no administration to hold the Russians accountable in the way this one has. I only wish former Vice President Biden had held the Russians accountable. We’d be cleaning up a lot less of a mess …” Pompeo said. “The failures of the previous administration allowed the Russians a lot of space to move. We’ve pushed back. We’ve sanctioned more Russians than any other administration in history.

“I’ll take a backseat to no one with respect to what our administration and President Trump has done to hold Vladimir Putin accountable when he’s engaged in malign activity,” the secretary continued. “And should we find out that there’s evidence that he’s putting our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at risk anywhere in the world, including in Afghanistan, I am very confident that President Trump will direct me — and he himself will respond — appropriately.”

Pompeo also addressed the leak itself that lead to the report, saying he hoped the source would be found and “brought to justice.”

“I don’t know where this leak came from, but when periodicals report this information, it breaks my heart because it puts our intelligence officers and our military men and women at risk,” he said. “It is dangerous. It is unlawful. And I hope that we can figure out who did it and they’ll be brought to justice.”

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