Trump denies knowledge of 'Russian bounties on US troops'

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jun 28 (PTI) US President Donald Trump on Sunday denied that he had received briefings from his intelligence officials that Russians are secretly offering bounties to Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan.

The New York Times in a news story on Saturday said that American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Several other media outlets including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and CNN followed with a similar story and said that Trump was briefed about the Russians offering bounties to groups in Afghanistan to kill people including US soldiers.

“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, as reported through an “anonymous source” by the Fake News” The New York Times, Trump said in a tweet.

“Everybody is denying it and there have not been many attacks on us. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration,” he said.

“With Corrupt Joe Biden and (Barack) Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine - Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phoney Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their “source”?” Trump said. In another tweet, he demanded that The New York Times reveal the name of the source.

“The Fake News” New York Times “must reveal its “anonymous” source. Bet they can’t do it, this “person” probably does not even exist!” he said.

In another tweet, Trump wrote: “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.” In a statement, Kayleigh McEnany, White House Press Secretary, said that this issue was not brought before the president.

“The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day and they are subject to strict scrutiny,” she said.

“While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA Director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President was briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” McEnany said.

“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.”,” she said.

Appearing on CNN’s Sunday talk show, former national security advisor John Bolton said that the Russians wants the US out of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

“And if it is true -- underline the word if -- that they are paying surrogates to kill Americans, this is one of the most serious matters, I think, that has arisen in the Trump administration,” he said when asked about the news story and the tweet from Trump.

“Now, so I asked myself this morning -- I have been puzzled over the tweet of the president saying, I don't know anything about this, although this sounds like a story I could have written on page 372 of my book,” he said.

Bolton this week released his book about his experiences inside the White House as Trump’s National Security Advisor.

“What would motivate the president to do that? Because it looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans, and we're not doing anything about it. So, what is the presidential reaction, is to say, it's not my responsibility, nobody told me about it, and, therefore, to duck any complaints that he hasn't acted effectively,” he said. PTI LKJ NSA