White House briefing on Russia's rewards reports raises more questions than it answers

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Many of these reports say Trump and the White House have known about the rewards for months, but have not publicly condemned them or retaliated against Moscow. McEnany said at a press conference Monday that Trump has never been briefed on the situation, even after the story broke over the weekend, while the president played golf in Virginia.

But in presenting his case, McEnany appeared to contradict Trump on two key points, and also offered explanations about intelligence gathering that made no sense to experienced experts.

in a Twitter post On Sunday night, Trump said: "Intel just informed me that they did not find this credible information and therefore did not report it to me or Vice President Mike Pence." The publication seemed to confirm that Trump had spoken to US intelligence officials and informed him that they had determined that the allegations of Russian rewards were not credible.

But McEnany said Monday that Trump "has not been informed on this matter." His refusal raised immediate questions, considering reports that US officials had informed their British counterparts.

He also said that the US government is still determining the veracity of the underlying intelligence, undermining Trump's suggestion that the US intelligence agencies already deemed him unreliable.

"There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations," McEnany said, a phrase he repeated several times during his press conference. "In fact, there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community regarding the veracity of what is being reported. And the veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated."

McEnany did not roundly deny the underlying allegations against Russia, but repeatedly tried to cast doubt on the information. She criticized the news organizations that published the articles and repeatedly said there was no "consensus" among US intelligence agencies.

Experts resist

Their efforts prompted some quick reprimands from national security and intelligence experts on Twitter.

"This smacks of WH trying to trick the public" said CNN national security analyst Susan Hennessey, who has been a sharp criticism of the Trump administration. "It is common for different intelligence agencies to give different degrees of trust depending on how the underlying information is based; that is not the same as disagreement about whether something happened."

National security experts also opposed McEnany's claim that intelligence on such a sensitive issue "would not be elevated to the President until verified." The point of these briefings, experts say, is to keep the president up to date on new intelligence and insights, which can change rapidly, so briefings include evaluations of the credibility of the briefing.

The New York Times has reported that Trump generally does not read the Presidential Daily Brief, a highly classified intelligence report prepared for the President every day. On Monday, McEnany declined to say whether intelligence on Russia had ever been included in Trump's daily Presidential Report.
McEnany later said: "This president has been extremely strong in Russia," pointing to economic sanctions and Trump's withdrawal from an arms treaty. But this chosen narrative ignores dozens of other Trump actions and comments in which he has struggled to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin or reverse punitive measures against the Kremlin.

Throughout his press conference, McEnany spent more time criticizing American journalists than condemning Russia for its aggressive moves against American interests, including rewards in Afghanistan, electoral interference in 2016, and military actions in Syria and Ukraine. .



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