Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell lashed out at “leaks of partial information” reported about U.S. intelligence that Russia offered secret bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops and other coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The Trump loyalist was subject to intense scrutiny after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany released a statement Saturday evening asserting that President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were never briefed on the “alleged Russian bounty intelligence” first reported by the New York Times.
Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, tweeted at Grenell daring him to confirm whether he did not tell Trump and Pence about a Russian military intelligence unit offering financial rewards to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops or McEnany was lying.
“I never heard this,” Grenell shot back. “And it’s disgusting how you continue to politicize intelligence. You clearly don’t understand how raw intel gets verified. Leaks of partial information to reporters from anonymous sources is dangerous because people like you manipulate it for political gain.”
I never heard this. And it’s disgusting how you continue to politicize intelligence. You clearly don’t understand how raw intel gets verified. Leaks of partial information to reporters from anonymous sources is dangerous because people like you manipulate it for political gain. https://t.co/403X9AVGAC
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) June 27, 2020
The New York Times reported that Trump was briefed about the bounties during an interagency meeting late in March. Officials developed a list of options to respond, but the outlet’s sources said the administration has yet to authorize any of the actions.
Grenell served as Trump’s acting spy chief from Feb. 20 to May 26, overseeing the 17-member U.S. Intelligence Community.
In her statement, McEnany asserted that the White House did not dispute the “alleged intelligence,” but she chided “the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter.”
Political Twitter began asking why officials would decide not to tell Trump or Pence about a Russian spy unit paying militants to kill U.S. troops.
Grenell responded to an NBC News reporter asking this “obvious and very serious question.”
“You are basing a whole bunch of assumptions on an anonymous source from the NYT,” he said.
Grenell also dismissed a tweet asking if a bounty on American heads was fine with him. “Disgusting. No one would be fine with this if it were true,” he tweeted.
Other outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and CNN, corroborated the reporting on bounties against U.S. and other coalition forces in Afghanistan, but only the New York Times had anonymous officials “briefed on the matter” claiming Trump was briefed about it.
The Taliban denied that it accepted bounties from Russian intelligence in exchange for killing coalition forces, and Russian Embassy in the United States called the reporting “fake news.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, reacted to the reporting by saying Saturday that Trump’s “embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.”