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

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, released an unusual statement Wednesday warning of a “serious national security threat” without providing additional details, pre-empting what the White House said was a planned briefing for congressional leaders.

Four sources with knowledge of the issue said the threat is a Russian military capability.

Turner, in his statement, did not identify the threat but said, “Today, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has made available to all Members of Congress information concerning a serious national security threat.”

Turner said he’s requesting that President Joe Biden “declassify all information relating to this threat so that Congress, the Administration, and our allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat.”

The statement didn’t offer any additional details, including the nature of the threat. On Wednesday afternoon, House members began trickling in and out of the highly secure 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 a short time later and suggested he was perplexed by the congressman’s statement because they already had a briefing planned for Thursday. A U.S. official confirmed that the Thursday briefing is related to the threat highlighted by Turner.

Sullivan said that earlier this week, he reached out to the Gang of Eight, the top leaders from the House and Senate, “to offer myself up for a personal briefing.”

“That’s been on the books so I am a bit surprised that Congressman Turner came out publicly today, in advance of a meeting on the books, for me to go sit with him alongside our intelligence and defense professionals tomorrow,” Sullivan told reporters.

He continued, “That’s his choice to do that. All I can tell you is that I’m focused on going to see him, sit with him, as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight tomorrow and I’m not in a position to say anything further from this podium.”

Sullivan declined to provide additional details about the briefing but made clear that he was the one who initiated the meeting.

“I personally reached out to the Gang of Eight. It is highly unusual, in fact, for the national security adviser to do that, and I did that,” he said.

Asked whether the public should be concerned about the threat, Sullivan said, “In a way, that question is impossible to answer with a straight ‘yes’ … because Americans understand that there are a range of threats and challenges in the world that we’re dealing with every single day, and those threats and challenges range from terrorism to state actors, and we have to contend with them.”

“I am confident that President Biden, in the decisions that he has taken, is going to ensure the security of the American people going forward, and I will stand here at this podium and assert that, look you in the eye with confidence that we believe that we can and will and are protecting the national security of the United States and the American people.”

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

The source described it as a “potential foreign threat” but would not identify where the threat is coming from.

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

“I want to assure the American people there is no need for public alarm,” Johnson said at the Capitol. “We are going to work together to address this matter, as we do all sensitive matters that are classified and beyond that, I’m not at liberty to disclose classified information and really can’t say much more, but we just want to assure everyone steady hands are at the wheel, we’re working on it, and there’s no need for alarm.”

“People should not panic — that is unequivocal. People should not panic,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

Turner “is right to highlight this issue, but it’s so sensitive that he is right now not publicly discussing it,” Himes told reporters. “And I don’t want people thinking that martians are landing or that your Wednesday is going to be ruined. But it is something that the Congress and the administration does need to address in the medium to long run.”

Rep Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said he urges all members to look at the intelligence. “I urge the president to take this matter seriously as well. And it’s not a political issue. It’s something that needs the attention of members of Congress and the executive branch,” he said.

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said this is one of several “very volatile things that we have to address. … This is something that requires our attention. There’s no doubt. It’s not an immediate crisis but certainly something we have to be very serious about.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Wednesday, “I think more information will be made available as appropriate, hopefully, sooner rather than later.”

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

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

One source with knowledge noted that the threat is “not unrelated” to the issues addressed by the currently stalled national security supplemental funding package, which includes aid for Ukraine Israel and Taiwan, but that they are not “directly tied.” The source declined to elaborate further.

This story first appeared on More from NBC News:


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