The White House has said Trump was never briefed on the intelligence, which remains unverified by the intelligence community. After receiving a briefing from the director of national intelligence and the national security adviser on Monday and Tuesday, Republicans agreed.
Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), who served as a Marine Corps intelligence officer, said he had questions about the reports, but that he was able to review intelligence material and said media outlets reported on “unverified” and “inconclusive” intelligence.
I’ve concluded the following: Number one, this Administration, and this President, has drawn on all available intelligence to keep our men and women in uniform safe …
Number two, those major national newspapers I mentioned, including the New York Times and Washington Post, reported on unverified and inconclusive intelligence as though it had been conclusively determined that Russia paid bounties on US troops.
Number three, every single member, Republican and Democrat alike, of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is aware – should have been aware – of the intelligence that I was briefed on. It’s long been available.
So look, President Trump has consistently been hard on Russia… and the President – to my mind – is taking this matter very seriously.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who also attended the briefing, backed the president — also pointing out that congressional leaders had access to the intelligence long ago, but were not alarmed:
The intelligence was not verified. It wasn’t at the level of actionable intelligence. It wasn’t at the level that they notified the president. And quite honestly it wasn’t at the level that — congressional leaders had access to the exact same intelligence, that alarmed them either.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, said the New York Times report — which first contained the allegations — was “nothing more than a hit piece” to hurt the president in November.
“The article in the New York Times on Friday was designed as nothing more than a hit piece to damage the president as we get closer to Election Day,” Banks told Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Daily on Tuesday. “It’s part of the track record of the New York Times to do this.”
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), a Green Beret who has also served in Afghanistan, also questioned the timing of the Times’ report.
Waltz told Fox News on Monday:
We’ve known for years that the Russians have been supporting the Taliban through arms, through weapons, through other means…so to me, this really smacks of partisan talking points of hearing Russia and the president and trying to make hay of that in an election year.
Democrats, on the other hand, are using the allegations from anonymous sources to imply that the president has been too weak on Russia — a familiar refrain.