White House Says No Consensus Existed on Russian Bounty Reports
President Donald Trump wasn’t briefed on reports that the Russian government paid bounties for American and allied troops to be killed in Afghanistan because there was no consensus among intelligence officials on the veracity of the claims, said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
McEnany told reporters at the White House on Monday that such intelligence wouldn’t be escalated to the White House without broad agreement among intelligence officials. She didn’t say whether reports of the bounties or the debate in the intelligence community were included in written daily briefs provided to Trump.
“Intelligence is verified before it reaches the president of the United States and in this case it was not verified,” she said, citing “dissenting opinions within the intelligence community.”
The alleged Russian bounties have swiftly emerged as another political crisis for a president already struggling to defend his response to the coronavirus outbreak that’s resurgent across the South, as well as continuing nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
A group of senior lawmakers is being briefed Monday at the White House on the alleged intelligence reports and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded a briefing for the full House of Representatives.
Reports on the bounties and whether Trump knew about them have drawn fresh attention to the president’s efforts to build warmer relations with the Kremlin despite the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election to bolster Trump’s candidacy and damage his rival, Hillary Clinton.
Russian officials have dismissed the accusations, earlier reported by the New York Times, as “fake news” emerging amid the heat of the 2020 presidential race.
Trump never brought up the issue in his conversations with President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. He dismissed the allegations as “lies,” highlighting Trump’s public rejection of them.
McEnany wouldn’t say whether the president still wants to invite Putin to the U.S. in September to be a part of a Group of Seven meeting Trump has said he plans to host.
— With assistance by Mario Parker
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