White House says Trump has now been briefed on Russian bounty intel
President Trump has now been briefed on intelligence regarding Russian bounties on coalition forces in Afghanistan, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday.
McEnany confirmed during a press briefing that Trump had been briefed on the matter but emphasized that there is still not a “consensus” in the intelligence community regarding the validity of the information.
“The president has been briefed on what is unfortunately in the public domain because of The New York Times,” she told reporters. “But that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that still has yet to be verified.”
McEnany vociferously criticized the Times, which first reported on the intelligence Friday, for publishing what she described as unverified information, saying it damages the U.S. government’s ability to collect intelligence.
The Times first reported Friday that the U.S. intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia covertly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants for successful attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan. The White House has denied that Trump or Vice President Pence was personally briefed on the subject prior to reports about the intelligence and disputed the notion that the information was sound.
Subsequent reports have said the information was included earlier this year in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a written classified document summarizing intelligence given to Trump daily. McEnany has declined to confirm whether the information was in the PDB.
“The PDB is a top-secret document that is widely disseminated among government. I will never sit here and confirm or deny what is in a top-secret document,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
Trump is said not to read the written briefs and to prefer oral briefings a handful of times a week.
McEnany, however, pushed back on the notion that the president does not regularly read or otherwise consume intelligence.
“The president does read and he also consumes intelligence verbally. This president, I’ll tell you, is the most informed person on planet Earth when it comes to the threats that we face,” the press secretary said.
Trump was receiving a briefing Tuesday as McEnany spoke, according to the White House schedule, though it was unclear precisely when officials briefed him on intelligence regarding the Russian bounties.
McEnany did not directly answer Monday whether Trump had been briefed on the intelligence since it was reported, but she said repeatedly that Trump is briefed only on “verified” intelligence. The White House has also briefed select members of Congress on the issue.
Trump administration officials have downplayed the reports about the intelligence, saying the information had not been verified.
But Trump late Sunday tweeted that he was told by intelligence officials that they did not find the information “credible” in explaining why he was not briefed on the material. McEnany declined to explain what the president meant in the tweet on Monday, and no other White House officials have publicly described the intelligence as not credible.
The Trump administration is facing growing pressure from Congress to divulge more information.
Earlier Tuesday, House Democrats criticized the administration for what they described as an insufficient briefing at the White House on the matter. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have pushed for a full congressional briefing from top intelligence officials.
A handful of House Republicans were also briefed on the matter at the White House on Monday night.