White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied the idea President Donald Trump doesn't read his intelligence briefings, which contain matters of national security

By Sean Neumann
June 30, 2020 09:14 PM
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President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on April 13 at the White House's daily coronavirus task force briefing.
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The White House on Tuesday disputed the idea President Donald Trump doesn't read his daily intelligence briefings, following concern he may not be staying up to date on national security matters in the wake of new reports that Russia has been placing bounties on American soldiers in the Middle East.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said over the weekend that they want answers from President Trump, 74, about why the U.S. hasn't responded against Russia, after the New York Times reported that Trump was given a written report that detailed the Russian operation in late February.

"The president does read and he also consumes his intelligence verbally," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. "This president, I'll tell you, is the most informed person on planet Earth when it comes to the threats that we face."

"He's constantly being informed and briefed on intelligence matters," McEnany, 32, added.

The Washington Post and the Times both reported the White House held a meeting about the intelligence regarding the alleged bounties in March, while the Times and the Associated Press reported that the president was also briefed on the information.

Trump has denied that he was briefed on the intelligence.

McEnany doubled down on that claim again on Tuesday, saying, "The president was never briefed on this."

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany addresses reporters on Tuesday
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The White House spokesperson did confirm that President Trump has now been officially briefed on the intelligence, which the Times first published details of over the weekend.

"The president has been briefed on what is unfortunately in the public domain," McEnany said, confirming the intelligence info was included in his daily briefing on Tuesday.

The Post reported that "several U.S. service members" are believed to have been killed through the Russian operation, which allegedly offered paid bounties to Taliban-linked extremist groups in exchange for killing U.S. soldiers in the Middle East.

When asked if Trump would take action against Russia if the intelligence is verified, McEnany assured that the president "will always act to protect American troops" and said that soldiers' safety is "paramount."

U.S. forces in Afghanistan
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A spokesperson for the National Security Council said Monday that "the veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated."

Another Trump administration official told PEOPLE on Monday that Trump "was never briefed on this issue because there is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations."

A spokesperson for Putin told NBC News the report was "100 percent b-----" and denied the reports that Russia placed bounties on U.S. soldiers with terrorist organizations. The Taliban also denied involvement.

But neither President Trump's denial over the notion that he isn't paying attention to his intelligence briefings, nor the Russian and Taliban denials of involvement, have satisfied U.S. lawmakers pressing the Trump administration for answers.

"This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC's This Week on Sunday.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a loyal Trump political ally, tweeted Saturday that it was "imperative Congress get to the bottom of" the report.

Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republicans' third-ranking member in the House of Representatives, tweeted her own questions about the matter on Sunday.

"If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB [daily brief]? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?" the lawmaker asked.