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.”
“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 Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (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 Meadows phoned House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Thornberry (Texas), House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Reps. Michael McCaul (Texas), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Banks (Ind.) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), according to a source familiar with the meeting.
–This report was updated at 3:13 p.m.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.