Trump denies briefing about bounties on U.S. troops
WASHINGTON — President Trump denied Sunday that he had been briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian military unit secretly offered bounties to Talibanlinked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, and he appeared to minimize the allegations against Moscow.
American officials concluded months ago that Russian officials offered rewards for successful attacks on American servicemembers last year, at a time when the U.S. and Taliban were holding talks to end the longrunning war, according to the New York Times.
Trump, in a Sunday morning tweet, said “Nobody briefed or told me” or Vice
President Mike Pence or chief of staff Mark Meadows about “the socalled attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians.”
The White House issued a statement denying that Trump or Pence had been briefed on such intelligence. “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter,” press secretary Kayleigh MCEnany said.
Trump’s tweet came a day after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the report, if accurate, was a “truly shocking revelation” about the commander in chief and his failure to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and stand up to Russia.
Russia dismissed the report.
“This unsophisticated plant clearly illustrates the low intellectual abilities of the propagandists of American intelligence, who instead of inventing something more plausible have to make up this nonsense,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
A Taliban spokesman also rejected the report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a member of the “Gang of Eight” congressional leaders briefed on sensitive intelligence matters, told ABC’S “This Week” that she had not been been informed about the reported bounties and requested a report to Congress on the matter.
“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed. Whether he is or not, his administration knows and our allies — some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan had been briefed and accept this report,” she said.
The Times, citing unnamed officials familiar with the intelligence, said the findings were presented to Trump and discussed by his National Security Council in late March. Officials developed potential responses, starting with a diplomatic complaint to Russia, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the report said.
Biden criticized Trump for “his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself ” before Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
President Trump was told of Russia offering bounties to Taliban militants for killing American troops, the New York Times reported.