As Democrats seized on a now-debunked New York Times report that the Kremlin placed bounties on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan - blaming President Trump for deliberately downplaying the aggression to appease 'Lord Putin' (as the story goes) - Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) punched right, peddling the fabricated bounties story to any and all who would listen, according to The Federalist.
Fast forward ten months later, and the Daily Beast reports that a senior administration finally admitted: "The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks on U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier."
"Low to moderate confidence" is another way of saying "unproven and potentially false, "in part because it relies on detainee reporting," which is often unreliable.
Yet, Cheney pounced in an effort to undermine then-President Trump, while using the fake news to also lobby for a prolonged military presence in the region as the Trump administration was pulling troops out of Afghanistan.
If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain:— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) June 28, 2020
1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB?
2. Who did know and when?
3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?
More via The Federalist:
Two days later, Politico, in an article titled, “Cheney takes on Trump,” wrote, “in her latest rebuke of Trump, Cheney openly questioned whether the president was aware of reports that the Russians offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops and demanded the administration take a more aggressive posture toward the Kremlin.”
Cheney was persistent in pushing the story, much to the frustration of colleagues and even allies on Capitol Hill as she continued an inner-party crusade against the president in an election year from her position as House conference chair.
FWIW, quite a few people in recent weeks who generally like Cheney -- including those not on the Hill -- were extremely disappointed with how she worked so hard to help the NYT spread its false anti-Trump story about Russia bounties. https://t.co/rM1dbnMI6U— Mollie (@MZHemingway) July 21, 2020
On June 29, Cheney released a joint statement with Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry perpetuating the claims U.S. intelligence eventually conceded were a fake news story after Trump left office.
“After today’s briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces. It has been clear for some time that Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan,” they wrote. “We anticipate further briefings on this issue in the coming days.”
Cheney also pursued an ulterior motive to advance an interventionist foreign policy by amplifying the story alongside Democrats, as chronicled here by Glenn Greenwald in the Intercept. The at-large Wyoming congresswoman capitalized on the report of Russian bounties to sponsor an amendment with Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow to prevent the White House from reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to below 8,000, action the Trump administration was actively preparing to finalize.
America’s adversaries should never question the will of the United States government or the American people to defend our interests, to protect the security of our nation, to protect our Armed Forces, and to respond when attacked or threatened. pic.twitter.com/czl22H8hrd— Rep. Liz Cheney (@RepLizCheney) June 30, 2020
Read the rest of the report here.