During a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) appeared to confuse Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines when he questioned her over U.S. efforts to help Ukraine battle against the Russian invasion.
During her testimony, Haines told the Senate panel that she believes that Russia is setting the stage for for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, and adding that "likely means the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory.”
Given the opportunity to question the intel official, Tuberville asked Haines about comments made by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in reference to the country invaded by Putin.
"When he said that Russia weakened and that the U.S. will move heaven and earth to arm Ukraine, do you believe that is right? He should say that?"
After pausing, Haines replied, "Yes, I believe the secretary of defense should say...," only to have the Alabama Republican talk over her and ask, "Do you believe that Russia blames the U.S. intelligence community for helping Ukraine shoot down a plane carrying hundreds of people?"
Haines asked him to repeat the question, and he tried once more with, "Do you believe Russia blames us, our intelligence agency, for Ukraine shooting down a plane with 100s of troops on board?"
As she paused once again, looking confused, he insisted, "Do you think Russia blames us for that?"
"Which plane are you thinking of?" she asked.
"There was a plane recently, that was shot down, a Russian plane that had a hundred troops, do you believe that they blame our intelligence agency for that?" the former college football coach-turned-politician asked.
"I don't know, sir," she answered.
Intelligence provided by the United States has helped the Ukrainian military target several Russian generals since Moscow’s invasion, the New York Times reported last week.
President Joe Biden’s administration has kept the military intelligence it is providing to Ukraine under wraps out of concern it could compromise its sources as well as be taken as a sign by Russia of direct hostility.
Earlier in the conflict, the Pentagon was similarly cautious about noting that only “defensive” weapons and equipment were being provided to Ukraine.
According to NBC News, Biden chastised top U.S. intelligence and defense officials over the leak, saying “that recent news reports about U.S. intelligence sharing with Ukraine have been counterproductive.”
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With additional reporting via AFP
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