Jun 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's spy chief to brief Senate panel amid reports of Russian bounties

John Ratcliffe
Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe is scheduled to provide a closed-door briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday amid allegations that Russian operatives paid Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a spokesman for acting committee chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Why it matters: The allegations that top officials at the White House were aware of intelligence that U.S. troops were being targeted by Russia have prompted bipartisan outcry. GOP lawmakers Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) are among those demanding answers.

Between the lines: Ratcliffe was set to come before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a general oversight hearing before the New York Times broke the Russia story, according to two sources familiar with the committee's plans.

  • The White House is also in the process of scheduling a briefing for the Gang of Eight, which may result in the 2 p.m. Senate Intel hearing being postponed, one of the sources said.
  • A spokesman for House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) declined to comment on whether Ratcliffe plans to brief their committee.

The big picture: Lawmakers from both parties were briefed separately on the Russian bounty intelligence on Monday and Tuesday and came away with varying responses.

  • Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), one of the lawmakers briefed by the White House, accused the Times of engineering a "hit piece" against President Trump and compromising national security by publishing unverified intelligence.
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that sentiment at a briefing on Tuesday, suggesting that the Times and "rogue intelligence officers" are undermining Trump and the security of U.S. troops.
  • Trump has denied being briefed on the intelligence and has suggested that it's "another fabricated Russia Hoax." McEnany reiterated that denial at Tuesday's press briefing, but would not comment on a report from the Times that the intelligence was included in Trump's written Presidential Daily Brief in February.

The other side: Democrats briefed by the White House have shot down Trump's suggestion that the reports are a "hoax" and have called for the intelligence community to brief all members of Congress.

  • "Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday. "There may be different judgments as to the level of credibility, but there was no assertion that the information we had was a hoax."
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