WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump denied Sunday that he was informed of US reports that a Russian military intelligence unit had secretly offered bonuses to militants linked to the Taliban for killing American troops in Afghanistan, and he appeared to play down the allegations against Moscow.
U.S. intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian officials offered rewards for successful attacks on U.S. military last year, at a time when the U.S. and the Taliban were holding talks to end in the long war, according to the New York Times.
Trump, in a Sunday morning tweet, said: “No one informed me or informed me” or Vice President Mike Pence or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about “alleged Russian attacks on our troops in Afghanistan “.
“Everyone denies it and there have not been many attacks against us,” he said.
The White House released a statement on Saturday denying that Trump or Pence were made aware of the news. “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged information, but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story incorrectly suggesting that President Trump was informed of the matter,” said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Trump’s director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, also said that neither the president nor the vice president had been “informed of the alleged information” in the Times report and said that the White House statement was “exact”.
Trump’s tweet came a day after alleged Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said the report, if correct, was a “really shocking revelation” about the commander-in-chief and his failure to protect American troops in Afghanistan and stand up to Russia.
Russia called the report “nonsense”.
“This unsophisticated plant clearly illustrates the weak intellectual capacities of American intelligence propagandists, who, instead of inventing something more plausible, must invent this nonsense,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
A Taliban spokesperson said the activists “firmly reject the allegation” and are “not beholden to the benefits of any foreign intelligence agency or country”.
John Bolton, a former national security adviser who was forced to leave Trump last September and has now written an eye-opening book about his stay in the White House, said on Sunday that “it is quite remarkable that the president did his best to say he heard nothing about it, we ask, why would he do something like that? “
Bolton told NBC “Meet the Press” that he thought the answer “could be precisely because active Russian aggression like the one against the US military is a very, very serious issue and nothing has been done, if that’s right, for the past four or five months, so it may seem like he’s been negligent. But of course, he can deny everything if no one ever told him about it. “
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, member of “Gang of Eight” congress leaders, spoke on sensitive intelligence issues, told ABC’s “This Week” that she had not been informed premiums reported and requested a report to Congress on the matter.
“It is as bad as possible, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this point, denies having been informed. Whether or not he is, his administration knows it and our allies – some of our allies who work with we in Afghanistan have been informed and accept this report, “she said.
The Times, citing anonymous officials familiar with the information, said the results were presented to Trump and discussed by his National Security Council in late March. Officials have developed potential responses, starting with a diplomatic complaint to Russia, but the White House has yet to authorize any action, the report said.
Trump replied to Biden on Twitter, saying that “Russia ate lunch and Obama’s lunch during their tenure”
But it was the Obama administration, along with its international allies, that suspended Russia from the Group of Eight after its unilateral annexation of Crimea to Ukraine – a move that has been widely condemned.
Biden criticized Trump for “his embarrassing campaign of deference and worthlessness” in front of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump tweeted that “No one has been harder” with Russia than his administration.