National Security Adviser: Alleged Russian bounties not verified intel, Trump not briefed

Robert O’Brien also issued a stern warning to government officials about leaking classified information.

Updated: June 30, 2020 - 12:54pm

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said late Monday that President Trump had not been briefed on reports that Russia was paying Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and issued a rare public warning to government officials about classified leaks.

“Over the past several days, the New York Times and other news outlets have reported on allegations regarding our troops in Afghanistan,” O’Brien said in a statement. “While we do not normally discuss such matters, we constantly evaluate intelligence reports and brief the president as necessary. Because the allegations in recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the intelligence community, President Trump had not been briefed on the items.”

The statement is the latest in a back-and-forth since news stories about the alleged plot by Russia emerged over the weekend about who knew what and when.

The White House has since the release of the reports pushed back on assertions that President Trump was aware of the alleged bounties.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that the CIA, the national security advisor and others have “all confirmed that neither the president or the vice president were briefed on the allegations of Russian bounty intelligence.”

However, she made clear there was "no consensus" within the U.S. intelligence community about the veracity of the information.

Trump tweeted Sunday, “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

O’Brien in his stern warning Monday night to leakers said: “To those government officials who betray the trust of the people of the United States by leaking classified information, your actions endanger our national security. No matter the motivation, there is never a justification for such conduct.”