By BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on ABC’s This Week it was “totally outrageous” that President Donald Trump did not respond to reports that Russian intelligence officers offered to pay Taliban-linked militants to target American troops, calling the lack of a U.S. response “appalling.”
“I don’t know what the Russians have on the president politically, personally or whatever it is, but he wants to ignore” Russian wrongdoing, Pelosi said Sunday in an interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether she believes Russia has dirt on Trump, Pelosi said, “How else would you explain his refusal to ignore, again and again, the intelligence that puts right at the Russian doorstep the involvement into our elections, for example?”
“Now, he’s saying this is fake news. Why would he say that?” she added.
“He is a gift to Russia — to diminish our leadership in NATO, to diminish our troops in Germany, all a gift to Putin,” she said. “Something is very wrong here. But this must have an answer.”
The New York Times first reported on Friday that a Russian military unit secretly offered to pay Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan, and that Trump was briefed on the findings.
A military official confirmed to ABC News that Russian intelligence officers offered to pay militants to kill American service members in Afghanistan. The official didn’t know if Trump was briefed but said senior U.S. officials were aware of the Russian effort for months.
Pelosi, a member of the “Gang of Eight” — the group of top congressional leaders regularly briefed on sensitive intelligence — said she was not briefed on this matter.
“We have called for a report to Congress on this,” Pelosi said on Sunday, adding that lawmakers would try to “find out” if Trump was briefed.
She also expressed concern that intelligence officials may have been afraid to broach the subject with the president.
“You would think that the minute he heard of this the president would want to know more instead of denying anything,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi repeated her refrain that with Trump “all roads lead to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” a comment dating back to their confrontation at the White House last October, when the two last spoke.
As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to increase across the country, Pelosi told Stephanopoulos she would support a federal mask mandate.
“It’s definitely long overdue for that,” she said. “My understanding is that the Centers for Disease Control has recommended the use of masks but not required it, because they don’t want to offend the president.”
“Real men wear masks,” she added. “It’s not about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting others.”
Pelosi called on the Trump administration to take the coronavirus threat “seriously” as the death toll surpassed 125,000, and the United States set new one-day case records several times last week.
She noted that the United States, which has over 4% of the world’s population, has 25% of the positive coronavirus cases and deaths.
“We have the worst record of any country in the world, and the president says we’re making progress, or whatever,” she said. “This is life and death.”
The House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus funding and relief package in May, which was opposed by Republicans and the GOP-held Senate.
Pelosi, who negotiated the last bipartisan package with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said talks with him would take place “at the end of the agreement.”
“The committees of jurisdiction have their discussions, and when they reach an impasse it rises to the four corners of leadership,” she said. “When that reaches an impasse, we negotiate with the administration.”
“I have a number of Republicans calling me and saying, ‘In the next bill, we have to have this,"” she added. “They know we have to have a bill.”
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.