House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wasn’t aware that U.S. intelligence officials believed Russian was paying bounties to Afghan fighters to kill American soldiers and said she should have been briefed on such “consequential” information.
Pelosi and the top congressional leaders, known as the Gang of Eight, received a classified briefing Thursday on reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, which was first revealed by reporting in the New York Times.
The intelligence assessment reached the White House, the president’s written daily brief and the National Security Council and was even shared with the British government since its troops were also targeted, the newspaper reported. When asked Thursday if the Gang of Eight had also been briefed, Pelosi said they should have been.
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“I didn’t know about it,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference at the Capitol. “But I will say this: It was of a consequential level that the intelligence community should have brought it to us in that way.”
Pelosi also slammed President Trump for not reading his presidential daily brief, which the Times reported included information Russian bounty plot back in February, and said Trump should have also received a verbal briefing on the intelligence.
“As the White House was aware of the threat to the security of our men and women in uniform, the president was still flirting with the idea of having Russia be part of the G8,” Pelosi said, referring to Trump’s efforts to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the summit of world leaders.
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Pelosi suggested additional sanctions on Russia.
The White House said Trump didn’t know about the alleged Russian plot and said it didn’t rise to his level because the intelligence community wasn’t in complete agreement about the bounty plot.
Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told “Fox and Friends” Wednesday that the CIA officer who briefs the president decided not to tell the commander in chief that Russia was allegedly paying bounties to kill U.S. troops. For his part, Trump dismissed the reporting as a “hoax.”
But after the Gang of Eight classified intelligence briefing Thursday, Pelosi expressed belief in the effort by Russia to harm Americans and blasted the White House’s effort to minimize the intelligence as a “con.”
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“You got the con,” Pelosi said. “The White House put on a con that if you don’t have 100 percent consensus on intelligence that it shouldn’t rise to a certain level. Well, we would practically be investigating nothing if you had to start off at 100 percent, so don’t buy into that.”
Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., put out a joint statement after the intelligence briefing saying that Trump needs to be relentless in the protection of American troops.
“Our Armed Forces would be better served if President Trump spent more time reading his daily briefing and less time planning military parades and defending relics of the Confederacy,” Pelosi and Schumer said.