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McEnany sidesteps questions on Russian bounty intel

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.”

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“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.

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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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs 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.

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McEnany said that White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE phoned House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Biden unveils batch of his White House team This week: Congress races to wrap work for the year MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves two energy regulators, completing panel On The Money: Biden announces key members of economic team | GOP open to Yellen as Treasury secretary, opposed to budget pick | GAO: Labor Department 'improperly presented' jobless data Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary 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: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses Defense bill moves to formal negotiations with Confederate name fight looming Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (Texas), House GOP  Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney's election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden's lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE (Wyo.) and Reps. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Pentagon prepping for Trump order to draw down in Afghanistan, Iraq | Questions swirl after DOD purge | 10th service member killed by COVID-19 Former VOA producer sues US global media agency over termination Record number of women to serve in the next Congress MORE (Texas), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerFirst release from Fox News Books reaches No. 2 on Amazon top-seller list GOP lawmaker says colleagues 'waiting' for Trump to come to terms with loss GOP lawmaker: Trump implementing a 'loyalty purge' amid firing of top cybersecurity official MORE (Ill.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Banks (Ind.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Cuomo reverses on in-person Thanksgiving plans with family MORE (N.Y.), according to a source familiar with the meeting.

--This report was updated at 3:13 p.m.