House GOP Leader on Russian bounties: Leaking intelligence 'to play games is unacceptable'

Trump's 'goal is to make sure every man and woman is safe,' McCarthy says. 'I've watched him console families. I've spoken with him at night when he has to call families'

Last Updated:
July 2, 2020 - 12:10pm

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, one of the eight lawmakers in Congress with access to classified intelligence briefings, said Tuesday that it was "unacceptable" for someone to selectively leak intelligence on alleged Russian bounties to the media to "play games."

The California Republican was referring to news reports that Russians paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The New York Times reported that the information was part of an intelligence briefing given to President Trump in February. The White House said Trump wasn't personally briefed on that intelligence. 

"Nobody on this side believes Russia is good players. That's why, when we had a new administration, we changed from the resetting. Ukraine received weapons – something the Obama administration would not. They received blankets under Obama," McCarthy, a member of the "Gang of Eight," said at a press conference.

"We've got more sanctions against Russia than any other time.This president's entire focus is on rebuilding this military and the advancements that he's put into it. His goal is to make sure every man and woman is safe," he also said.

McCarthy said there were intelligence officials in the room when he was briefed on the Russian bounty intelligence Monday. He did not elaborate on his assessment of the intelligence.

"I've been with this president when we've gone to Dover," McCarthy said about the U.S. military base in Delaware where soldiers killed in action are brought home. "I've watched his face. I've watched him console families. I've spoken with him at night when he has to call families. I will tell you it is his top priority and the idea that someone would try to do something selective inside a report to play games is unacceptable," he said. "It doesn't matter what party you are in. And we should not play any games with this and no member should do that as well."

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney declined to "talk about the specifics of any of those classified briefings" about the Russia bounties but said Republican leaders "anticipate additional briefings on this issue."

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