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White House to brief lawmakers on ‘serious national security threat’ related to Russia

By 37ci3 Feb14,2024

WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, issued an unusual statement Wednesday warning of a “serious national security threat” to what he said was a planned White House briefing for congressional leaders, without providing further details.

Four sources familiar with the matter said the threat is Russia’s military capability.

Turner, his statementdid not identify the threat, but said: “Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released information on a serious national security threat to all members of Congress.”

Turner said he is asking President Joe Biden to “declassify all information related to this threat so that Congress, the Administration and our allies can openly discuss the actions needed to respond to this threat.”

Mike Turner
Mike Turner attends a press conference with members of the GOP Physicians Caucus at the U.S. Capitol on January 19, 2022.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

The statement did not provide any further details, including the nature of the threat. On Wednesday afternoon, members of the House of Representatives began walking in and out of a high-security room in the basement of the Capitol, known as the SCIF, where the most sensitive, classified information is shared with lawmakers.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan addressed Turner’s statement at a press briefing shortly afterward, saying he was confused by the congressman’s statement because they had already scheduled a briefing for Thursday. A US official confirmed Thursday’s briefing was related to the threat Turner highlighted.

Sullivan said earlier this week he contacted the Group of Eight, the top leaders of the House and Senate, to “offer myself for a personal briefing.”

“It’s been on the books, so I’m a little surprised that Congressman Turner went public today before the meeting on the books that I’m going to sit down with him tomorrow with our intelligence and defense experts,” Sullivan told reporters.

He continued, “It’s his choice to do that. I can tell you that I’m focused on seeing him tomorrow, sitting with him, as well as visiting the other House members of the Eight and I’m not in a position to say anything else from this chair.”

Sullivan declined to provide further details about the briefing, but said he initiated the meeting.

“I personally contacted the Group of Eight. It’s actually very unusual for a national security adviser to do that, and I did,” he said.

Asked whether the public is concerned about the threat, Sullivan said, “In a way, it’s not possible to answer that question directly with a yes … because Americans understand that there are a number of threats and challenges in the world.” we face every day, and these threats and challenges range from terrorism to state actors, and we have to deal with them.”

“I am confident that President Biden will ensure the safety of the American people in the decisions he makes, and I look you in the eye with confidence as I stand here in this chair. we believe that we can and will protect the national security of the United States and the American people.”

“This is a serious issue that could lead to a destabilizing situation and a national security threat,” a Democratic source familiar with the threat told NBC News.

The source described it as a “potential external threat” but did not specify where the threat came from.

Several key lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said there was no reason to worry.

“I want to reassure the American people that there is no need for public alarm,” Johnson said at the Capitol. “We’re going to work together to resolve this issue because we do all sensitive matters that are classified and beyond, I’m not at liberty to release classified information and I really can’t say much, but we want to make sure everyone’s hands are steady at the wheel, we’re going to do it.” We are working on it and there is no need for an alarm.”

“People should not panic – that’s for sure. People shouldn’t panic,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Turner “is right to raise this issue, but it is so sensitive that he is not discussing it publicly at this time,” Himes told reporters. “I don’t want people to think that the Martians have landed or that your Wednesday is going to be ruined. But this is an issue that Congress and the administration must address in the medium to long term.”

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said he urged all members to review the intelligence. “I call on the president to take a serious approach to this issue. And this is not a political issue. This is something that needs the attention of members of Congress and the executive branch,” he said.

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said it’s one of several very volatile issues we have to deal with. … This is something that requires our attention. There is no doubt. This is not an immediate crisis, of course we need to be very serious.”

“I think it’s hopefully not too late when we need more information,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Tuesday.

Senate leaders are not expected to attend Thursday’s briefing as the upper chamber is now on a two-week recess.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. and his ranking member, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., were briefed weeks ago about the national security threat identified by Turner, according to two sources with direct knowledge. The intelligence was provided to all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

A source familiar with the matter said the threat was “unrelated” to the issues raised by the US. right now national security has suspended the additional funding packagethis includes aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, but they are “not directly related.” The source declined to provide further information.

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