President Donald Trump responded to a New York Times report claiming American intelligence officials learned that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked terrorists to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday that no one in his administration, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Vice President Mike Pence, briefed him on the allegations contained in the report, describing it as “fake news.”
“Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an anonymous source by the Fake News @nytimes,” Trump wrote on Sunday morning, adding that “everybody is denying it.”
Meanwhile, he added that “there have not been many attacks on us. Nobodys been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.”
Over the weekend, the newspaper cited “officials briefed on the matter” for its report, while it noted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow hasnt been made aware of the claims, while a Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the allegations.
“These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless—our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” Mujahid said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we dont attack them.”
Aiming at the NY Times, Trump said the newspaper used an anonymous source to obtain the report and must reveal the person in order for it to be credible.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe echoed Trumps sentiment, writing that he “confirmed that neither the president nor the vice president were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.”
Statement by DNI Ratcliffe: “I have confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.” (1/2)
— Office of the DNI (@ODNIgov) June 28, 2020
The White House also addressed the issue, and it denied that a briefing ever occurred, according to his office. “The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate,” Ratcliffe wrote.
News of the alleged Russian-backed scheme was met with scorn by top Democrats, including 2020 candidate Joe Biden. In a virtual town hall event on Saturday, Biden suggested that if the NY Times published an accurate report, Trump should face consequences.
Biden repeated longstanding Democratic allegations that Trump has a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that his “entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale.”
“Its betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harms way. Its a betrayal of every single American family with a loved one serving in Afghanistan or anywhere overseas,” he said.
Trump denied Bidens claims, reiterating his claim that the Kremlin took advantage of the former vice president as well as former President Barack Obama.