A crimes report was filed by the CIA with the Department of Justice over a leak, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said July 1.
Raw intelligence that suggested the Russians might be offering bounties to kill U.S. soldiers was leaked to The New York Times and other outlets.
Data from the DOJ shows the number of classified leaks surged since President Donald Trump took office, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said this week, from 39 per year on average to 104 on average.
“We have seen targeted leaks of classified information against this president, and it is irresponsible: phone calls with foreign leaders, meetings with government officials, and now reports of alleged intelligence. Make no mistake: This damages our ability, as a nation, to collect intelligence,” she said.
The leak makes difficult to verify or debunk the raw intelligence regarding Russia, O’Brien told reporters outside the White House on July 1.
“Some leaker took it upon themselves in an effort to attack the president, or to maybe promote some policy agenda, to leak allegations that now make it almost impossible for us to find out what happened,” O’Brien said.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to comment. The CIA didn’t respond to an inquiry.
Thousands of pieces of intelligence come in every week, and analysts work to verify them. While the intelligence community was working on assessing the legitimacy of the intelligence in question, officials put together a list of options the president could decide from if it was verified.
A senior career CIA official made the decision not to have President Donald Trump briefed on the raw intelligence.
“She made that decision because she didn’t have confidence in the intelligence that came up,” O’Brien said.
“She made that call. And you know what? I think she made the right call, so I’m not going to criticize her. Knowing the facts that I know now, I stand behind that call.”
The raw intelligence was leaked to The New York Times, which falsely reported that Trump was briefed on it and chose not to do anything, according to intelligence officials.
“That was a hoax, and there’s no question about it,” O’Brien said.
Trump took to Twitter on July 1 to call the story “just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party.”
He referred to a statement from a Pentagon spokesman that said the Department of Defense “has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”
The New York Times’ report, which cited anonymous sources, published on June 26, set off a fresh round of criticism of Trump, who is running for reelection, from many Democrat and some Republican lawmakers.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) accused Trump of having an “affinity” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Top intelligence officials in rare statements pushed back on the allegations.
Director of Intelligence John Ratcliffe confirmed on June 27 that neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence had been briefed on the intelligence alleged in the report. Trump was later briefed on the intelligence on June 30.
Groups of senators and representatives were briefed on the situation on Capitol Hill on June 30. Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel planned to meet with the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, on July 1.