White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Tuesday said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTop intelligence officials release statements criticizing leaking of Russian bounties information Russian bounty intel was included in Trump’s daily briefing: reports Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops MORE was not briefed on reports that Russian intelligence services offered bounties to Afghan militants for the death of coalition forces.
“Over the past several days, the New York Times and other news outlets have reported on allegations regarding our troops in Afghanistan,” O’Brien said in a statement. “While we do not normally discuss such matters, we constantly evaluate intelligence reports and brief the President as necessary.”
“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,” he added.
O’Brien also excoriated the intelligence leak, saying “To those government officials who betray the trust of the people of the United States by leaking classified information, your actions endanger our national security. No matter the motivation, there is never a justification for such conduct.”
The New York Times first reported on the alleged bounties on Friday, prompting Trump to deny on Sunday that he had been briefed on them. However, several outlets have reported he was briefed on the allegations and that the administration authorized no further action.
The Washington Post on Sunday reported that U.S. intelligence has concluded the alleged offer has led to the deaths of multiple service members, while The Associated Press reported Monday that the White House was aware of intelligence concerning the alleged bounties as early as 2019.
The White House on Monday briefed several House Republicans, including House Republican Conference Chairperson Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Trump faces bipartisan calls for answers on Russian-offered bounties McEnany sidesteps questions on Russian bounty intel MORE (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Trump faces bipartisan calls for answers on Russian-offered bounties McEnany sidesteps questions on Russian bounty intel MORE (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on the matter. A group of their Democratic colleagues is set to be briefed Tuesday morning.