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.”