President Trump said Sunday he wasn’t briefed by U.S. intelligence on a report that Russian agents offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill U.S. soldiers.
On Twitter, the president said “nobody briefed or told me,” or Vice President Mike Pence or White House 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 @nytimes.”
“Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us,” Mr. Trump said. “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.”
The New York Times reported Friday that U.S. intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence agents had offered the bounties to militants linked to the Taliban. The paper said Mr. Trump was briefed on the matter, and that the National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March.
Four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Other administration officials have denied the allegation that the president was told of bounties.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said he has “confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting.”
“The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate,” Mr. Ratcliffe said.White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany 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 were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
She said her comments do 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.”
Mr. Trump said he has been tougher on Russia than the Obama administration was.
“With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine – Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their ‘source’”? he tweeted. “Funny to see Corrupt Joe Biden reading a statement on Russia, which was obviously written by his handlers. Russia ate his and Obama’s lunch during their time in office, so badly that Obama wanted them out of the then G-8. U.S. was weak on everything, but especially Russia!”
Democrats are calling for a congressional investigation.
Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, asked former acting Director of Intelligence Richard Grenell on Twitter, “Did you really not tell @realDonaldTrump and @VP Pence that Russia was paying militants to kill US troops? Or is @PressSec lying?”
Mr. Grenell replied to the lawmaker, “I never heard this. And it’s disgusting how you continue to politicize intelligence. You clearly don’t understand how raw intel gets verified. Leaks of partial information to reporters from anonymous sources is dangerous because people like you manipulate it for political gain.”
He said critics are “basing a whole bunch of assumptions on an anonymous source from the NYT.”
Former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Twitter of the White House’s explanation, “I don’t believe this for a minute, but if it were true, it means that Trump is not even pretending to serve as commander in chief. And no one around him has the guts to ask him to. More evidence of their deadly incompetence.”