Jun 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Schiff: "Unfathomable" Trump would invite Putin to G7 if he knew of Russian bounties

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on CNN Monday that it would be "unfathomable" if President Trump knew about intelligence that Russian operatives allegedly paid Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops and still invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to rejoin the G7 summit in September.

Why it matters: Schiff is one of several bipartisan members of Congress who have urged the Trump administration to provide answers in the wake of bombshell media reports about the alleged Russian bounties. He told CNN that he and several other House Democrats will be briefed on the intelligence on Tuesday morning.

What he's saying:

"We also want to look into this issue of whether the president was briefed on this, and if he was not briefed, why that was. Is this again a concern with speaking truth to power, that Donald Trump doesn't want to hear anything negative about Vladimir Putin? Because, after all, the president was inviting Russia back into the G8, and it's kind of unfathomable that he would do that if he was knowing of the fact that his friend Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin or Russian intelligence services ... were offering a bounty on the heads of American troops."
— Adam Schiff

The big picture: The New York Times first reported last week that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were briefed on U.S. intelligence that a Russian military spy unit offered secret bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

  • Trump says he was not briefed on the issue, writing in a tweet Sunday night that officials did not relay the information to him because "they did not find this info credible."
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has also denied that Trump and Pence were briefed, and said on Monday that there is "no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations." She declined to say if the intelligence was included in the President's Daily Brief.

Schiff said that it would not be "sufficient" for intelligence officials to have denied the president a briefing on the information simply because it was inconclusive.

  • "It's frequently the case that the president will be briefed, should be briefed on matters where there is no absolute certainty about the intelligence on a given topic, and what we expect our intelligence agency leaders to do is say 'Mr. President, we have intelligence that shows X, Y or Z,'" he said.
  • "If your president is making decisions about the U.S./Russia relationship, which we do all the time, if it goes to the protection of our troops, that's something that needs to be briefed to the commander in chief."

What to watch: Schiff called on the administration to provide a full House briefing and said that congressional hearings are likely.

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