U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he had never been told about reports that a Russian military intelligence unit was secretly offering bounties to Taliban militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers. Trump scoffed at a New York Times report that U.S. intelligence officials had concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and covert operations in Europe aimed at destabilizing the West, had carried out the mission in Afghanistan last year and that he had been briefed about it in late March. On Twitter, he said, “Nobody briefed or told me,” 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.” 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. Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2020 Twenty American troops were killed in Afghanistan last year, but it was not known which killings might have been linked to the alleged Russian bounties. Critics have accused Trump of often being deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his 3 ½-year term in the White House. But Trump tweeted, “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration,” contending that Russia “had a field day” under former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in the national November presidential election. The U.S. leader challenged the newspaper to “reveal its ‘anonymous’ source. Bet they can’t do it, this ‘person’ probably does not even exist!” The Fake News @ nytimes must reveal its “anonymous” source. Bet they can’t do it, this “person” probably does not even exist! https://t.co/pdg4AjybOG
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, Feb. 29, 2020.Earlier this year, the U.S. and the Taliban signed an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan after more than 18 years of conflict. The U.S. and NATO allies agreed to withdraw all troops by next year if the militants uphold the deal. Trump said it had been a “long and hard journey” in Afghanistan, but that, “It’s time after all these years to bring our people back home.” Despite Trump’s denial of the alleged bounties, one of the top-ranking Republican lawmakers in Congress, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, voiced concerns about the report. “If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed?” she said on Twitter. She asked whether the information was in Trump’s daily presidential briefing. “Who did know and when? What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?” said Cheney, the daughter of former U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney. If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain:
1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB?
2. Who did know and when?
3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) June 28, 2020John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who now contends in a new book that the president is unfit to run the country, told CNN that Trump’s tweets about the alleged bounties show that he was not concerned about “the security of our forces,” but “whether he was paying attention” to the intelligence report he supposedly was given.