Democrats say they want to hear from intelligence agencies, not White House on bounties
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer took a group of House Democrats to the White House for a briefing Tuesday morning, one day after House Republicans received a similar briefing following media reports that US intelligence showed Russia offered bounties to Taliban fighters for killing US troops. Democrats said at a news conference after the briefing that they needed to hear directly from the intelligence agencies — not the White House — reiterating their call for a briefing to the full House.
Hoyer said that the briefing was “White House personnel telling us their perspective,” and the lawmakers did not receive “any new substantive information.”
“I think we knew the White House perspective. What we need to know is the intelligence perspective,” Hoyer said.
Senate Republicans were also briefed by the White House on Tuesday — a day after their House GOP counterparts — and several Republicans argued that they didn’t believe Trump needed to be told about the intelligence as a result of conflicting conclusions inside the intelligence community.
House Democrats, however, raised concerns that the intelligence briefers may not have told Trump about the matter, suggesting that the intelligence leaders may be hesitant to tell Trump what he doesn’t want to hear, particularly related to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Democrats argued this was information Trump needed to know before speaking to Putin by phone — and saying he wanted to invite Russia to this year’s G7 meeting.
“There may be a reluctance to brief the President on things he doesn’t want to hear. And that may be more true with respect to Putin and Putin’s Russia than with respect to any other subject matter,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “Many of us do not understand his affinity for that autocratic ruler who means our country ill.”
Hoyer did not answer directly whether the White House told lawmakers that the President was not briefed, saying that he “left the White House with the impression” and noting that Trump had said he was not briefed publicly. Schiff argued that it wasn’t acceptable if it was only included in Trump’s written materials.
“If a President doesn’t read the briefs, it doesn’t work to give him product and not tell him what’s in it,” Schiff said. “It’s not a justification to say that the President should have read whatever materials he has. If the President doesn’t read, he doesn’t read. They should know that by now.”
The White House said Monday that Trump was not briefed on the matter because the intelligence “wasn’t verified.” Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said there was “dissent” within the intelligence community about the intelligence.
Pressed whether the intelligence was included in the President’s Daily Brief, McEnany said only that Trump “was not personally briefed.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have both demanded the Trump administration provide briefings to the full House and Senate about the intelligence. Pelosi spoke by phone Monday with Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel to reiterate her call for a briefing.
“Many serious questions remain regarding what the White House is doing to address threats to American and allied troops and to hold Russia accountable,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Hoyer said he made another push for a full-House briefing with top intelligence officials on Tuesday, but he said he was given no assurances that such a briefing would happen.
The lawmakers were briefed by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, among others.
Senate Republicans were briefed separately from the House Democrats on Tuesday, following the first briefing to House Republicans on Monday. After the Senate’s briefing Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted that the President was not told about the intelligence about the Russian bounties because “there appear to be contradictory analyses of the threat streams gathered by our intelligence community with the most reliable form of intelligence gathering being emphasized.”
Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said following the briefing that he was convinced the President “didn’t know about it.”
“A lot of these things don’t rise to the level of the president, so whether they should have with what they knew at that time, I think probably not,” Inhofe told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters following the Senate Republican lunch Tuesday that Russia should “absolutely not” be allowed back into the G7, adding that it should not be surprising that Russia would be engaged in activities targeting US troops in Afghanistan.
“It’s no secret, the Russians are up to no good, they have been throughout Putin’s tenure,” McConnell told reporters following the Senate Republican lunch. “I can’t verify the current rumors that all of you are writing about. But would I be surprised if the Russians were doing something like this? Absolutely not.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.