Local officials respond to NYT report linking Russia to plots against US troops

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hand at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. Russian state-sponsored elements are accused of putting bounties on U.S. troops, according to a report from the New York Times.

EDIT: 8:39 p.m.

Via a spokesperson, U.S. Rep. John Katko provided the following statement to The Palladium-Times:

"All threats made against members of our military must be taken seriously. As a leader on the House Homeland Security Committee, I look forward to more information becoming public and am committed to ensuring the safety of our nation and those who protect it. We must always act to hold those who endanger our servicemenbers accountable.”

The original story appears below:

WASHINGTON - A bombshell report from the New York Times published Friday is drawing stark reaction from one of Oswego County's members of Congress, as well as from those seeking election to seats in November's election.

The article, entitled "Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says," claims Russia is sponsoring anti-U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the article claims President Donald Trump has known about the situation for "months" but not yet acted on it.

For a story with a worldwide scope and dealing with international affairs, some local officials responded to The Palladium-Times' requests for comment with gravity and startling alacrity - even on a sunny weekend afternoon.

Former U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, represented New York's 22nd Congressional District from 2017 to 2019 and is seeking this November to reclaim her old seat from rival and current U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica. The 22nd Congressional district includes the eastern half of Oswego County and sprawls to Binghamton.

For Tenney, the New York Times report is a confluence of issues: she's the proud parent of a servicemember, and has been as strong a supporter as the Empire State has to offer for Trump and the Make America Great Again movement. 

"This report is worrisome and as the mother of a U.S. Marine, I take threats on U.S. military personnel extremely seriously," Tenney said when reached for comment Saturday. "Presently, only a generic unnamed source who claims to know about a briefing has been cited - I await more information before drawing conclusions."

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a statement said while her office does not routinely comment on "alleged intelligence or internal deliberations," she denied that Trump or Vice President Mike Pence ever received briefings on the "alleged Russian bounty intelligence."

"The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day and they are subject to strict scrutiny," McEnany said, using the opportunity to take a jab at one of the president's longtime targets. "This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter."

Brindisi, who edged Tenney by less than a percentage point in the 2018 election, said that if true, the report is "damning and underscores the fact that Russia continues to be a threat to our national security and our brave men and women in uniform abroad."

"I will work with Democrats and Republicans to make sure our troops have everything they need to stay safe and succeed," Brindisi, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Palladium-Times. "This administration needs to stop treating Vladimir Putin and Russia with kid gloves, get to the bottom of this and take swift, immediate action to protect our troops abroad."

In another rematch, November's election for the 24th Congressional District (Round Two) is underway in earnest. The district includes the western half of Oswego County, as well as the greater Syracuse area and Auburn. U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, retained his job in 2018 with a narrow but decisive victory versus educator and activist Dana Balter, who held on to a wave of grassroots support to win last week's primary election.

Balter on Saturday responded to the New York Times article with a flurry of criticism of the White House and Katko.

"Russia put a bounty on the heads of American troops," Balter said on social media. "Trump knew. And he chose to do nothing. Now we all know. And John Katko chooses to say nothing. Your silence is an abdication of leadership - and it puts American lives at risk. Do better."

As of 6:45 p.m. Saturday, request for comment to Katko's press team had not been returned.

(3) comments


I would like to hear from Will Barclay. What does he say about this?


He's waiting to be told what he thinks. When Trump's handlers figure that out, you'll know.


The picture caption is wrong.

They are faking shaking hands.

How appropriate for that pair.

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