Senate Democrats are demanding that President Donald Trump fork over any daily intelligence briefings that addressed evidence that Russia paid Taliban-linked militants to assassinate U.S. troops.
In a letter to Trump on Friday, led by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), the Democrats say access to the so-called Presidential Daily Brief that Trump was provided, particularly in late February when reports indicate he was informed of the alleged Russia scheme, would shed light on his administration’s decision not to make any diplomatic or military response.
"In fact, you appeared to offer aid and sympathy to Russia by writing on Twitter on June 29, 2020: ‘Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!’” the senators write. "There can be no higher national security priority than the protection of our Armed Forces abroad, and the people’s representatives in Congress need to know what is going on here."
The letter, which is also signed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and others, asks for the documents by July 17.
The request for access to Trump’s PDB is the latest salvo in Congress’ effort to shine a light on Trump’s handling of relations with Russia. Trump allies have refused to echo Trump’s claim that the Russian bounty story is a "hoax" but have emphasized that spy agencies have varying degrees of confidence in aspects of the intelligence.
In addition, it has shed light on Trump’s personal habits when it comes to his daily intelligence briefing. Since the Truman administration, all presidents have received PDBs that reflect the preferences of the officeholder. Trump reportedly eschews the written brief in favor of in-person oral briefings with graphics and charts, and he and his aides claimed that the inclusion of the Russian bounty intelligence in the written brief in late February would not necessarily have been seen by Trump — though other top aides, from his chief of staff to key national security officials, would also have received it and may have been orally briefed as well.
A review of Trump’s handling of the PDB would not be unprecedented. In fact, Duckworth sat on the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi that provided a painstaking review of Obama’s daily intelligence briefing after the attack on an American compound in the war-torn Libyan city that left four dead, including a U.S. ambassador. Lawmakers at the time interviewed Obama’s personal briefer, who disclosed that she provided a written brief to the White House usher, who delivered it to the president, and that she orally briefed his chief of staff, Jack Lew, that morning.
In addition to demanding information about the PDB, Duckworth, Schumer and the other Democratic senators are asking Trump to make available members of his Cabinet for testimony about what steps they may have taken after receiving the intelligence about Russian bounties. They are also asking for materials and documents associated with any National Security Council meetings that addressed the issue.
Other Democrats who signed onto the letter include Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tina Smith of Minnesota and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.