President Donald Trump still has not received an intelligence briefing on reports that a Russian intelligence unit offered bounties to the Taliban to kill coalition soldiers in Afghanistan, according to his top spokesperson, who also contradicted the president’s assertion that such intelligence had been deemed not credible.
“There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Monday during a news briefing when explaining why Trump had not been briefed yet, disputing reports from multiple media outlets that the intelligence had been included in Trump’s daily briefing.
In fact, McEnany asserted, there are “dissenting opinions” from some in the intelligence community about the allegations, first reported by The New York Times over the weekend, though she said that their veracity is still being evaluated. She did not specify who within the intelligence community has disputed the intelligence.
According to the Times, American intelligence officials “concluded months ago” that Russian intelligence officers had secretly offered rewards for successful attacks on coalition forces, including the targeting of U.S. troops. Subsequent stories by the Times and The Washington Post reported that the Russian rewards resulted in the deaths of U.S. troops and that American combat fatalities from the past 18 months are being reviewed in light of the alleged bounties.
Trump reportedly was briefed on the intelligence in March, according to the Times, and the White House has been weighing how to punish Russia for the scheme, though no action had been authorized. The president and the White House have repeatedly denied that Trump knew about the allegations.
But McEnany’s insistence about the lack of “consensus” on Monday contradicted the president, who late Sunday night tweeted that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me” or Vice President Mike Pence.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a statement issued Monday that “neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.” The director said reporting from the Times and others that Trump had been briefed on the bounties was “inaccurate,” but he did not dispute the reporting on the intelligence itself.
Ric Grennell, who served as Trump’s acting director of national intelligence this past spring, tweeted Saturday that he “never heard this” in response to a Democratic congressman’s questions about the allegation and accused the congressman of politicizing intelligence.
The press secretary argued Monday that the intelligence community receives “thousands of reports a day,” she but claimed they would not be elevated to the president until verified.
Still, she announced that in response to an outcry for more information from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had extended an invitation to a bipartisan group of lawmakers and that a briefing at the White House was taking place as she spoke, though that briefing apparently was limited to Republicans and a briefing for Democratic lawmakers had not yet been scheduled.
Asked why congressional leaders were being briefed on an issue the president had not been, McEnany replied that “this has been and answered, the president is briefed on verified intelligence.”