By BEN GITTLESON and KATHERINE FAULDERS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The White House said Monday it would brief lawmakers following reports U.S. intelligence agencies had determined Russian intelligence officers had offered to pay Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
“There will be a briefing today,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News in an interview Monday morning, when asked if the White House would brief House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. McEnany did not specify which lawmakers would attend.
Both Democrats and Republicans on relevant congressional committees were invited to the briefing, which will take place at the White House, according to a senior White House official. A White House official said it was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for briefings of their respective legislative body’s full memberships.
While the White House did not specify how many members had been invited, the official said the gathering would not take the form of a meeting of the “Gang of Eight” — a bipartisan group of senior lawmakers regularly briefed on sensitive intelligence.
Pelosi, a member of the “Gang of Eight,” said on Sunday in an interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that she had not been briefed on the topic.
The New York Times reported Friday that U.S. intelligence officials had determined a Russian military intelligence unit had offered militants tied to the Taliban bounties for killing U.S. and other international troops in Afghanistan.
A military official confirmed to ABC News that U.S. intelligence agencies had determined that to be the case and said Russia had taken the step over the past year, amid peace talks to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump denied that he or vice president had been briefed about the determination, as The New York Times reported Friday.
“Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or [White House] Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians,” Trump tweeted Sunday, lambasting the Times’ story. “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us.”
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe wrote on Twitter Saturday night that “neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.”
Pelosi on Monday morning wrote in a letter to the director of national intelligence and the head of the Central Intelligence Agency that the revelation was “very disturbing” and requested an immediate interagency briefing for all House members.
“The questions that arise are: was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed,” she wrote.
Immediately following the letter, a senior White House official said the White House did not plan to schedule a briefing for all members of the House this week.
Schumer similarly called for all senators to be briefed on the reports.
“We need to know whether or not President Trump was told this information, and if so, when,” Schumer said in a statement.
Senators on the other side of the aisle also voiced concern.
Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted Saturday that it was “imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports” and that “I expect the Trump Administration to take such allegations seriously and inform Congress immediately as to the reliability of these news reports.”
“If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted Sunday, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the [president’s daily intelligence briefing]? 2. Who did know and when? What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold [Russian President Vladimir] Putin accountable?”
Fellow Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said that “we need answers.”
“I have asked the administration to share what it knows, and I expect to know more in the coming days,” he tweeted Monday morning.
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