CIA Director Gina Haspel will brief Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the congressional ‘Gang of Eight’ on Thursday on the intelligence report that claimed Russia was offering a bounty on U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone will also led the classified briefing to the top lawmakers, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed on Wednesday. It will take place in a secure room in the U.S. Capitol.
It will be the first briefing for Pelosi on the issue and comes as she slammed President Donald Trump as ‘unqualified and ethically unfit’ to serve as president and commander-in-chief.
‘The fact is very clear. The President is intellectually unprepared, personally unqualified and ethically unfit to serve as President of the United States. And now he has undermined any credibility he may have had as Commander-in-Chief, if he could call a possible assault on our troops, our men and women in uniform, by the Russians a hoax, without even wanting to read about it, learn more about it and make a really informed judgment about it,’ the speaker told MSNBC on Wednesday.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Trump is ‘intellectually unprepared, personally unqualified and ethically unfit to serve’ as commander in chief
The Gang of Eight consists of the top leadership in Congress from both parties and the heads of the intelligence committees.
Besides Pelosi, it includes Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Mark Warner as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence committee, and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and Republican Rep. Devin Nunes as the chairman and ranking member of the House intelligence committee.
The briefings for the Gang of Eight are more detailed than a briefing for all members of Congress.
The White House has already held separate briefings for some Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Democrats complained they only heard from White House staff – Chief of Staff Mark Meadows led their briefing – while Republicans heard from intelligence officials. Additionally, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to brief members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Pelosi has asked for an all-House briefing on the Russian bounties while Schumer has demanded a similar one for the Senate.
Meanwhile, President Trump on Wednesday claimed that many in the intelligence community didn’t believe that the Russian government was paying a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan.
He continued to claim he had never been briefed on the matter, saying it didn’t rise to the level of president, and called the report a ‘hoax.’
‘We never heard about it because intelligence never found it to be of that level, where it would rise to that,’ Trump told Fox Business in an interview. ‘When you bring something into a president and I see many, many things and I’m sure I don’t see many things that they don’t think rose to the occasion. This didn’t rise to the occasion.’
It was his second time that day referring to the matter as a ‘hoax.’
‘The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party. The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
The White House has struggled to do damage control and contain the fallout from Friday’s report in The New York Times on the allegation against Russia. The administration has focused its counterattack on the argument that Trump was never briefed on the matter.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the congressional Gang of Eight would be briefed on the Russia bounty issue on Thursday
President Donald Trump said many in the intelligence community didn’t believe a report that the Russian government was paying a bounty on American troops
In his interview with Fox Business, Trump argued the intelligence community didn’t even buy it.
‘From what I hear, and I hear it pretty good, the intelligence people didn’t even – many of them didn’t believe it happened at all. I think it’s a hoax. I think it’s a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats,’ Trump said.
But the president declined to detail what he would do if the report turned out to be true, simply saying: ‘If it did happen, the Russians would hear about it. And anybody else would hear about it that was involved.’
Officials in the administration have not disputed the existence of the intelligence report but have said it was not verified and that was why it was not presented to President Trump.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told ‘Fox & Friends’ on Wednesday morning the president wasn’t briefed because the allegation against Russia was ‘uncorroborated.’
But he also acknowledged the allegation was in Trump’s briefing material – but the briefer didn’t tell the president about it.
‘The president’s career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence and, by the way, she’s an outstanding officer and – in knowing all the facts I know – I certainly support her decision,’ he said.
Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told ‘Fox & Friends’ the president wasn’t briefed because the allegation was ‘uncorroborated’ but O’Brien admitted information was in president’s daily briefing – it just wasn’t given to him by the CIA officer doing the briefing
O’Brien, after his appearance on Fox News, was asked by reporters at the White House if the information about Russia was in the president’s daily brief but he declined to say either way.
‘We don’t get into to written classified documents. Unfortunately that that’s something that there’s been spent a little too much that in Washington lately,’ he said.
While Trump and his staff have argued he was not briefed on the matter, reports indicated the information was in the president’s daily brief – a compilation of intelligence reports given to the commander in chief and top administration officials. Trump is said not to read it carefully and is, instead, orally briefed on the matters at hand.
President’s Daily Brief
The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) is a daily a multi-source intelligence digest of high-level information and analysis on national security issues produced for the president and key cabinet members and advisers.
It has been presented in some form to the president since 1946, when President Harry Truman received the Daily Summary.
In 2014, the PDB transitioned from a print product to electronic delivery at the request of President Barack Obama.
Given the sensitive nature of the information, most PDBs – even those from many years past – remain classified.
O’Brien seems to confirm this with his account.
‘The person who decided early on whether the president should be briefed on this in the Oval … was a senior career civil servant, at a CIA officer,’ he told reporters at the White House.
‘And she made that decision because she didn’t have confidence in the intelligence that came up. We get raw intelligence and tactical intelligence, every day, hundreds of pieces of intelligence coming every day, thousands of pieces of intelligence come in a week. She made that call,’ he said.
The New York Times reported in May that Trump’s CIA briefer is Beth Sanner, who has three decades of experience. The piece also detailed how the president has a short attention span, rarely reads his daily brief (except for graphs and photos he likes to look at) and tends to get his information from conservative news outlets.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president wasn’t angry about not being briefed because he has ‘great faith’ in his staff.
‘The president believes that and has great faith and Ambassador O’Brien and the others who made the decision that this shouldn’t be risen to his desk. It was a career CIA officer with more than 30 years of tenure who made the decision not to brief it up and the National Security Adviser agreed with that decision. She’s an excellent officer and does great work,’ she said Wednesday at her press briefing.
‘But this is unverified still at this very moment,’ she added.
And McEnany said on Tuesday the president does read his briefing reports.
‘The President does read and he also consumes intelligence verbally. This president I will tell you is the most informed person on planet earth when it comes to the threats that we face,’ McEnany said.
As the administration has struggled to down play the shocking report, Democrats have piled onto the president, accusing him of a ‘dereliction of duty’ in the words of Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee who spoke in Wilmington on Tuesday.
‘If these allegations are true and he did nothing about any of this, then, in fact, I think the public should – unrelated to my running – conclude this man is not fit to be the president of the United States of America,’ Biden said of Trump.
Joe Biden said of Donald Trump that ‘this man is not fit to be the president of the United States of America’ during remarks in Wilmington on Tuesday
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (left with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on the right) said ‘there may be a reluctance to brief the president on things he doesn’t want to hear’; Schiff and Hoyer were among the eight House Democrats briefed by the White House on Tuesday morning
Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival, criticized the president for not knowing about the intelligence.
‘Either he knew and chose to do nothing, or he didn’t know because he couldn’t be bothered to do his job,’ she wrote on Twitter.
Biden also slammed Trump for reports he does not read his daily briefing, noting he and President Barack Obama read theirs every day when they were in office.
‘The president brief was something I read every day as vice president. The president read it every day. I was briefed every morning before I got to the White House, and then again. The idea that somehow he didn’t know or isn’t being briefed, it’s a dereliction of duty if that’s the case. If he was briefed, and nothing was done about this, that is a dereliction of duty,’ Biden said of Trump.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said ‘there may be a reluctance to brief the president on things he doesn’t want to hear.’
Schiff made his comments after eight House Democrats received a briefing at the White House on Tuesday morning.
‘You briefed the president in the manner in which he or she receives information. If the president doesn’t read the briefs, it makes it doesn’t doesn’t work to give him written product, and not tell him what’s in it,’ Schiff said.
‘So, I don’t want to comment on this particular case but I just say it’s not a justification to say that the president should have read whatever materials he has. If he doesn’t read, he doesn’t read. They should know that by now,’ he noted.
Some Republicans have jumped to the president’s defense.
‘This morning I attended a long briefing at @WhiteHouse on reports about Putin putting bounties on our troops in Afghanistan. I’m confident @RealDonaldTrump didn’t know about the report, and it’s clear our intelligence agencies aren’t in complete agreement on this,’ wrote Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, on Twitter on Tuesday.