House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday at a press conference that, after receiving a White House briefing, he sees no indication that the intelligence surrounding allegations that Russian operatives paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops is a "hoax" — as President Trump has suggested.
What he's saying: "The president called this a hoax publicly. Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax. There may be different judgments as to the level of credibility, but there was no assertion that the information we had was a hoax."
The big picture: Hoyer suggested that the White House briefing did not include direct perspectives from the intelligence community, and reiterated his call for the Trump administration to provide a full briefing to House members.
- "I would have preferred the briefing ... had been given by intel personnel, either from CIA — director [Gina] Haspel in particular — or NSA so that we would have the direct evidence and discussion from the intelligence community as to how credible they assessed the information," Hoyer said.
- "I thought this briefing was the White House personnel telling us their perspective. I think we knew the White House perspective. What we need to know is the intelligence perspective."
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also insisted that "the right people to give the briefing really were not in the room," and rebuked Trump for not assuring the public that he will "get to the bottom" of "whether Russians are putting bounties on the heads of American troops."
- "I do not understand for a moment why the president isn't saying this to the American people right now and is relying on, 'I don't know, I haven't heard, I haven't been briefed.' That's just not excusable. His responsibility as commander in chief is to protect our troops," Schiff said.
- "And I shared the concern at the White House today that I think many of us have, which is 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."
The other side: National security adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement Tuesday, "Because the allegations in recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the Intelligence Community, President Trump had not been briefed on the items."
- "Nevertheless, the Administration, including the National Security Council staff, have been preparing should the situation warrant action."