U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in an interview with CNN on Monday that President Donald Trump wasn't briefed regarding allegations Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan.
Kinzinger, R-Channahon, was one of eight Republican congressmen briefed on this intelligence Monday.
Kinzinger said in a press statement issued Monday there is an ongoing review to determine the accuracy of media reports.
The intelligence assessments came amid Trump’s push to withdraw the U.S. from Afghanistan. They suggested Russia was making overtures to militants as the U.S. and the Taliban held talks to end the long-running war. The assessment was first reported by The New York Times, then confirmed to The Associated Press by American intelligence officials and two others with knowledge of the matter.
Two officials told the New York Times the intelligence was included as part of Trump’s daily briefing document in February 2020. One official told the Times it appeared in a brief in late February, and the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.
Kinzinger said in his interview with CNN's Jim Acosta there is a briefing book that goes out every day to cabinet level staff and intelligent agencies determine the most important parts of it to verbally brief the president.
"Everything I understand the president was not briefed about this," Kinzinger said in the CNN interview. "If it was in his book, that's one thing, most presidents don't read the entire book every day, they rely on intel to brief them. There's probably more to that than what the headline sounds like."
When asked if Kinzinger believes it should have been told the president, he said there was "conflicting evidence."
"Do you want to present the president with the idea that Russia has put bounties on U.S. troops if you don't fully know yet, and if there's conflicting intelligence, or is it better to gather the rest of that?" Kinzinger said in his interview.
He later said: "I think that's a question for who makes the decisions to brief the president," Kinzinger said. "That's typically a career person and it's not a scandal at the point the president knew and he didn't do anything about it."
Kinzinger's congressional opponent in November, Dani Brzozowski, D-La Salle, said the congressmen was covering for the president, stating reports are the president "was briefed."
“Rep. Kinzinger defending the President’s inaction regarding the Russian government’s bounties on U.S. soldiers is completely unacceptable,” Brzozowski said in a press statement. “The Russian government paid the Taliban to attack US troops, President Trump knew about it for months, and he did nothing. Period. There is no defense for that, and Adam Kinzinger’s continued attempts to defend the President’s actions are a betrayal. The people of the 16th district and the people of this country deserve answers and leadership, not talking points from the White House.”
Kinzinger said in a press statement and reiterated the same sentiment in Monday's interview: "if the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we strongly encourage the administration to take swift and serious action to hold the Putin regime accountable.”
He said in Monday's CNN interview: "You can't do it if you don't know."
According to the Associated Press, members of Congress in both parties called for additional information and consequences for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, and eight Democrats were briefed on the matter Tuesday morning. Still, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted Trump had not been briefed on the findings because they hadn't been verified.
The White House seemed to be setting an unusually high bar for bringing the information to Trump, since it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to senior government decision-makers, according to the Associated Press. McEnany declined to say why a different standard of confidence in the intelligence applied to briefing lawmakers than bringing the information to the president.