White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Wednesday slammed reports that Trump had been briefed on the alleged Russian bounty matter and did not do anything about it, a ‘hoax’.
O’Brien said Trump was not verbally briefed on a reported Russian effort to pay the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan because the allegations were not corroborated at the time.
O’Brien, however, declined to say whether the intelligence, which U.S. ally Britain has said it was aware of, had been included in a written presidential briefing earlier this year.
The Republican president has faced a barrage of criticism after New York Times reports that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered bounties for U.S. and allied soldiers and that Trump received a written briefing on the matter in February.
After Trump initially said he was not briefed on the matter, the White House said Trump was not “personally” briefed but did not address whether he had received a written report or read it, and why he had not responded more aggressively if so.
O’Brien told reporters later that Trump has now been briefed on the Russian bounty reports.
“The president’s been fully briefed,” O’Brien said outside the White House, “We don’t get into written classified documents.”
Democrats on Tuesday called on Trump to consider imposing new economic sanctions on Russia if the information was confirmed.
Trump has tried to deflect criticism by saying the intelligence was not conclusive enough to be brought to his attention, and by calling news reports “fake news.”
“I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.