President Donald Trump on Sunday denied that he had been briefed on reported US intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, and he appeared to minimize the allegations against Moscow.
American intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian officials offered rewards for successful attacks on American service-members last year, at a time when the U.S. and Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running 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 so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians." "Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us," he said.
The White House had issued a statement Saturday 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 director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, also said neither the president nor vice president was "ever briefed on any intelligence alleged" in the Times' report and he said the White House statement was "accurate." Trump's tweet came a day after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that 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.