President Trump responded Sunday to a New York Times report about American intelligence learning that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces including American troops, insisting that no one had briefed him, Vice President Pence, or White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on this information.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle wanted answers after the information — which was also reported by the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — came to light, demanding to know what the White House knew about the bounties. The Times reported that President Trump and the White House’s National Security Council were briefed on Russia’s bounty rewards in late March.
“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 tweeted Sunday morning. “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.”
This echoed a statement from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who said 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.”
The president went on to accuse his presumptive November opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, and former President Barack Obama of allowing Russia to get away with actions such as their takeover of Crimea. Trump then said that the latest report was “[p]robably just another phony Times hit job.”
During a virtual town hall event on Saturday, Biden said that if the Times’ reporting is true, Trump’s knowledge of the situation would be a “truly shocking revelation.”
“Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin,” Biden said, noting that Trump has offered to host Putin in the U.S.
Sunday morning, Trump fired back at Biden, reiterating his position that Russia took advantage of him and Obama during the previous administration.
“Funny to see Corrupt Joe Biden reading a statement on Russia, which was obviously written by his handlers,” Trump said. “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!”
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.