© Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi conducting a news conference July 2, 2020.
As the fallout from dubiously sourced allegations about 'Russian bounties' on US troops in Afghanistan continues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for fresh sanctions against Russia's defense and intelligence sectors.

Moscow paid Taliban fighters bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, and President Donald Trump ignored intelligence briefings on the matter, an anonymously sourced New York Times report claimed last Friday. Trump called the story a "phony hit job" against him, his Defense Department found no corroborating evidence, and National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said on Wednesday that the president was never briefed, due to the flimsiness of the intelligence.

However, the report has whipped up yet another wave of 'Russiagate' hysteria in Washington. Pelosi called on Thursday for the application of sanctions on Russia's intelligence and defense sectors.
"When Congress in a bipartisan way passed sanctions on Russia, the administration told us to take out the sanctions on the GRU - the intelligence, as well as the defense sectors of Russia. We should have those in there."
The bipartisan bill likely referenced by Pelosi is the 2017 Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. Despite signing this bill into law, the Trump administration opted not to enforce sanctions on Russia, with the State Department claiming the threat alone was deterrent enough.

Pelosi is not the only Democrat to capitalize on the 'Russian bounties' story to bolster her anti-Moscow efforts. On Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee voted to block Trump's planned withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, via an amendment inserted into its version of the yearly National Defense Authorization Act.

The amendment, passed by the panel's Democratic majority plus a handful of Republicans, would call for an investigation into the so-called bounty payments before any pullout could go ahead.

Given the timing, a number of pundits and Republican lawmakers have accused their colleagues of using the story to prolong the two-decade war in Afghanistan. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) said:
"A great nation does not force the next generation to fight their wars, and that's what we've done in Afghanistan. I think the best day to have not had the war in Afghanistan was when we started it, and the next best day is tomorrow."