Jul 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

McEnany: "Right decision" not to brief Trump on Russian bounty intelligence

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that the career CIA officer who chose not to verbally brief President Trump on the intelligence about alleged Russian bounties made "the right decision."

Driving the news: National security adviser Robert O'Brien told Fox News earlier Wednesday that "once the U.S. received raw intelligence on the Russian bounties, U.S. and coalition forces were made aware even though the intelligence wasn't verified."

  • "The DOD came out and said as soon as we had this information, we made sure that we had tactics in place, that we took protective measures, to look after our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Afghanistan. That hasn't been reported. That was done right," O'Brien said.
  • "Here at the White House, when we had this raw intelligence, we started an interagency process to look at options, so that if the intelligence turned out to be verified, if it could be corroborated, then we'd have options to go to the president with to address the Russian situation."

Why it matters: The revelation that the U.S. military took "protective measures" after learning about the intelligence has raised questions about why the commander in chief wasn't briefed.

  • Former national security adviser John Bolton told CBS on Wednesday: "You don't take everything in to the president, but when American troops are threatened by an adversary like Russia in this way, if there's any indication this is an ongoing operation, it's something the president needs to take into account."
  • Bolton also cautioned that it's difficult to brief Trump because he's "just not receptive to new facts" and has a "lack of interest in intelligence."

Worth noting: The New York Times has reported that the intelligence was in the written President's Daily Brief in February, which Trump has been reported to seldom read.

What she's saying: "Until there's a strategic decision for the president to make, until it is verified, it is not briefed up to the president of the United States, that's how intelligence works," McEnany told reporters.

  • "The president believes in and has great faith in Ambassador O'Brien and the others who made the decision that this shouldn't be risen to his desk. It was a career CIA officer with more than 30 years of tenure who made the decision not to brief it up, and the national security adviser agreed with that decision."
  • "She's an excellent officer and does great work and made the decision not to brief it up. It was the right decision to make, and at this moment, as I speak to you, it is still unverified," McEnany said.

Flashback: McEnany condemned the New York Times on Tuesday for publishing "unverified" allegations about intelligence on the reported Russian bounties, suggesting that "rogue intelligence officers" are undermining Trump and the country's security.

Go deeper