US President Donald Trump said he was not briefed on US intelligence related to Russian activity in Afghanistan because it was not thought “credible” by the country’s intelligence agencies.
An explosive New York Times report, citing anonymous officials, said that the US president had been told about findings that reportedly showed Russia had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing US soldiers.
Trump on Sunday denied having been briefed on the matter, as the report renewed questions about his reluctance to confront Russia over behavior that, if accurate, would represent a serious national security challenge.
“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” Trump tweeted late on Sunday, referring to US Vice President Mike Pence.
According to the Times report, US intelligence had concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants to kill troops of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.
The rewards were purportedly incentives to target US forces as Trump tries to withdraw US troops from the conflict-torn country — one of the militants’ key demands — and end the US’ longest war.
The newspaper said that Trump was briefed on the US intelligence findings in March, but has not decided how to respond.
Early on Sunday morning, Trump had criticized the report as “probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax.”
“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,” he tweeted. “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us... Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.”
New US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe issued a statement late on Saturday denying Trump or Pence had been briefed “on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting.”
He also vouched for Saturday’s White House statement, which denied that the US president had been briefed on the intelligence, but left open the possibility that it existed.
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