Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) claimed on Monday that members of Congress had the same access to alleged intelligence of Russian bounties on U.S. troops that President Donald Trump himself had, and yet “none of them picked it and wanted to pursue it either.”
Stewart joined CNN’s Chris Cuomo in a Monday interview to discuss recent allegations that Russia had paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan and that Trump ignored intelligence reports on the issue. Stewart, however, defended Trump and said he was not the only one who would have access to the intelligence regarding Russia. Stewart noted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff both could have raised questions about the same intelligence reports regarding Russia but never did.
Stewart noted it was possible that claims Russia’s GRU intelligence service was offering bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops may have been included in Trump’s daily briefing book, which Stewart then said is often in excess of 60 pages and which no president has claimed to read front to back. Stewart then said presidential intelligence briefings mainly focus on the top matters facing the president and that officials briefing Trump may have chosen to ignore the Russian bounty claims if they did not deem them credible enough.
Asked if he felt it was acceptable that intelligence officials may have skipped over the reports of the Russian bounty payments when briefing Trump, Stewart said he did find the exclusion of that detail acceptable because “again it just didn’t reach the level of credibility” to require Trump’s attention.
“By the way, here’s something that I think would back that up for you Chris, that’s important to know,” Stewart said. “Nancy Pelosi had this presented to her as well, in much the same format. So did Adam Schiff. All of us did. It was in the general intelligence analysis that we were seeing on a daily or weekly basis. None of them picked it out and wanted to pursue it either.”
Earlier in the interview, Stewart suggested the term “Presidential Daily Brief” is a misnomer as more people than just the president are made aware of the intelligence contained in the brief. Stewart did acknowledge it would be fair to ask the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) why they included the claims about Russia in the presidential briefing book, but not mention it during the actual intelligence meeting.
Trump’s current DNI John Ratcliffe has indicated Trump never received a briefing on Russia claims and Trump’s former acting DNI Richard Grenell said he “never heard this” with regards to the intelligence claims.
The Department of Defense also issued a statement Monday night, indicating they did not have “corroborating evidence to validate” the claims regarding Russia’s bounty payments to the Taliban.