Speed Reads

russia bounty scandal

There's bipartisan bafflement at White House claim Trump wasn't briefed on Russian bounties

Eight Republican House members went to the White House on Monday for a briefing on U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia offered or paid cash bounties to Taliban-tied militants to kill U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. They left confused at the insistence from President Trump and his aides that Trump never got a "briefing" on the alleged Russian plot.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he was convinced the Russian bounty plot is likely real and "may have been" included in one of Trump's President's Daily Brief (PDB) written classified intelligence roundups. The White House and Director of National Intelligence's office declined to say if the bounty intelligence was included in Trump's PDB. "Trump routinely skips reading the report," NBC News notes, citing multiple officials.

The Associated Press reports at least two Trump PDBs did detail the bounty plot, in early 2019 and another earlier this year; one intelligence official told The New York Times the one this year was presented to Trump on Feb. 27. Trump was also briefed on the Russian plot in person by successive national security advisers in March 2019 and earlier this year, AP reports.

"Anything with any hint of credibility that would endanger our service members, much less put a bounty on their lives, to me should have been briefed immediately to the commander in chief and a plan to deal with that situation," said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas). A small group of House Democrats will get a White House briefing on Tuesday.

"I just reviewed the intel," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted Monday night. "It's not a hoax, Mr. President." Sen Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) had questions: "No. 1, Who knew what, when? And did the commander-in-chief know? And if not, how the hell not? And No. 2, What are we going to do as a proportional cost in response?"

Former intelligence officials dismissed the White House claim Trump wasn't briefed because of lack of consensus among intelligence agencies, noting that the Russian plot was deemed credible enough it was shared with British and, just last Thursday, NATO allies and discussed at top levels of the National Security Council. "Given that there was an NSC meeting, I suspect that [Trump] did know," former CIA director Michael Hayden told The Washington Post. "It is reprehensible that Trump has said nothing about it since it's become public other than, 'I didn't know.' What is he going to do about it?"