White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday sidestepped questions about reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban fighters to target U.S. military members in Afghanistan.
McEnany stuck closely to talking points throughout the briefing, repeating several times that “there is no consensus within the intelligence community” on the intelligence related to the Russian bounty program. Pressed for specifics about whether the president was made aware of the intelligence, she declined to elaborate beyond saying that Trump had not been personally briefed on the information.
“The U.S. receives thousands of reports a day on intelligence and they are subject to strict scrutiny,” McEnany said, reading from prepared notes. “While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA director, NSA and chief of staff can all confirm that neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
“There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations, and in fact there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community,” she added.
McEnany wouldn’t say whether the intelligence was in the President’s Daily Brief, a top-secret summary of high-level intelligence that is given to Trump daily, only reiterating that he was not “personally briefed on the matter.”
McEnany declined to explain Trump’s tweet late Sunday night that intelligence had “just reported” to him that they did not find the information “credible” in explaining why he hadn’t been briefed on the material. She did not say who Trump was referring to in the tweet or whether the conversation constituted a full briefing.
“No further details on the president’s private correspondence,” McEnany said.
She later sidestepped a question about how Trump could be sure the intelligence was not credible if he had not been briefed on it, instead accusing The New York Times of “irresponsible” reporting.
The New York Times first reported on Friday that a Russian intelligence unit, commonly known as the GRU, secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants who launch successful attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan. According to the Times, Trump was briefed on the matter in late March and the administration discussed potential responses, but the White House had yet to sign off on further action.
The Washington Post reported late Sunday that the bounty program had resulted in American casualties.
The White House, backed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), has vociferously denied that either Trump or Vice President Pence was briefed on the intelligence. The ODNI has not commented on the credibility of the intelligence, and the White House until Monday had not addressed its credibility.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden’s record-setting tax increases will take your money — and your job GOP committee chair: ‘It would help’ if Trump would wear a mask occasionally Democratic officials, governors push for nationwide mask mandate as administration defends state-by-state approach MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWake up, America — see what’s coming Tim Scott shares racist and threatening messages he’s received over police reform bill Trump administration ending support for 7 Texas testing sites as coronavirus cases spike MORE (D-N.Y.) on Monday requested briefings for the full House and Senate from the head of the CIA and the director of national intelligence. Republicans on Capitol Hill have also pressed the White House for information.
Several Republican lawmakers were at the White House for a briefing on the matter as McEnany spoke.
McEnany said that White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsIntelligence suggests Russian bounties led to deaths of several US troops in Afghanistan: report Bolton on Trump denying he was briefed on bounties on US troops: ‘Just another day at the office in the Trump White House’ Top GOP lawmaker calls for answers from White House after report on Russian bounties on US forces MORE phoned House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton Hoyer1,700 troops will support Trump ‘Salute to America’ celebrations July 4: Pentagon Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won’t wear masks Democratic leaders press GOP to update Voting Rights Act MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProgressives zero in on another House chairman in primary GOP committee chair: ‘It would help’ if Trump would wear a mask occasionally Pelosi: Nationwide mask mandate ‘definitely long overdue’ MORE (R-Ky.) on Sunday evening offering to brief eight lawmakers on the committees of jurisdiction on the matter. She said the briefing was ongoing at the White House but did not divulge the names of the attendees.
When a reporter pointed out that members of Congress were being briefed on an issue the president claimed he had not been briefed on, McEnany explained that Trump “is briefed on verified intelligence.”
The Republican lawmakers in attendance at Monday’s briefing included House Armed Services Committee Chair Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Army to drop photos from soldier records to reduce racial bias | House defense bill backs B pandemic preparedness fund | Bill targets potential troop drawdowns House defense bill backs B pandemic preparedness fund House panel launches investigation into Roosevelt coronavirus outbreak after captain’s firing upheld MORE (Texas), House GOP Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyGOP committee chair: ‘It would help’ if Trump would wear a mask occasionally Top GOP lawmaker calls for answers from White House after report on Russian bounties on US forces Arkansas governor urges ‘consistent national message’ on wearing masks MORE (Wyo.) and Reps. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulWhite House denies it was briefed about Afghan militant bounties GOP lawmakers voice support for Israeli plan to annex areas in West Bank Sunday shows preview: Bolton delivers bombshell while US tackles COVID-19, police brutality MORE (Texas), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerInternal watchdog investigating if Air Force improperly used plane to surveil protests: report Republicans walk tightrope on police reform The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery’s Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people’s relationship with culture, art; Trump’s war with Twitter heats up MORE (Ill.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Banks (Ind.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikArmy set to welcome first woman Green Beret next month The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Geopolitical adviser Parag Khanna criticizes US, China leadership on virus; US COVID-19 cases reach highest single-day level NY Republicans call on McConnell to provide .9B in additional MTA funding MORE (N.Y.), according to a source familiar with the meeting.
–This report was updated at 3:13 p.m.