WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday upbraided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “playing politics” with an explosive report that alleged Moscow paid the Taliban to kill US soldiers.
In an interview with “Fox & Friends,” McEnany accused Pelosi of being “entirely off-base” after the San Francisco Democrat, 80, claimed that the president failed to act on the intelligence because the Russian government had incriminating information on him.
“This president has been very tough on Russia, sanctioning a new Russian target, closing Russian consulates, so she’s just off-base on her facts there,” McEnany said, insisting that the president was never briefed on the intelligence that was reported by the New York Times on Friday.
“What she’s doing, she’s taking a report based on anonymous sourcing that was just dead wrong. The New York Times was wrong, believe it or not, and she’s politicizing it,” she continued.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Pelosi suggested that “all roads lead back to Putin,” referring to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump has developed a controversial relationship.
“I don’t know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally, financially, or whatever it is, but he wants to ignore, he wants to bring them back to the G8 despite the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine,” the speaker said.
Pelosi, a member of Congress’ bipartisan Gang of Eight, which receives classified intelligence briefings, said lawmakers had been left in the dark by the White House and the nation’s spy agencies and were demanding answers.
“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed,” she said.
Trump tweeted Sunday that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence was briefed on the alleged Russian bounty — and later said the reason they weren’t briefed is because intelligence officials didn’t find the report credible.
“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” the president tweeted. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”
But McEnany suggested during a press briefing later that the jury was still out on the validity of the intel.
“There were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community. There’s no conclusion on these allegations. No consensus,” she said, insisting that only intelligence that has been verified is presented to the commander in chief, who had already dismissed the reports.
McEnany declined further comment while praising Trump’s tough measures against Russia, including economic sanctions.
Capitol Hill Republicans as well as Democrats want to get to the bottom of the Russia allegations.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted Sunday morning that if the reports in the Times about the bounties were true, the White House needed to explain what it knew about the intelligence and how it responded.
And staunch Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged the administration to tell Congress what it knows about Russia’s efforts to pay bounties to kill American soldiers.
“I expect the Trump Administration to take such allegations seriously and inform Congress immediately as to the reliability of these news reports,” tweeted Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
The White House is expected to brief lawmakers sometime Monday about the allegations, which the Taliban and Russia have both denied.