Donald Trump claimed Sunday that no one had told him about a Russian plot to offer rewards to Taliban militants in exchange for fatal attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan, although US security officials have evaluated a response to the Plot since at least March.
Senior administration officials, including members of Trump’s national security council, have been discussing the Russian reward offer for months, the New York Times reported for the first time.
But in a tweet on Sunday morning, Trump claimed he had never heard of the Russian offer, and questioned whether such an offer had been made.
“No one informed me or said to me: [vice president Mike] Pence, or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by the Russians, ”Trump tweeted in part. “Everyone denies it and there have not been many attacks against us …”
Meadows took office as chief of staff in late March, after the national security council, which includes the president’s top advisers with offices within the White House, convened an interagency meeting to discuss taking action on the intelligence reports, according to the Times. .
Joe Biden, Trump’s presidential rival, on Saturday accused Trump in a virtual city hall of betraying US troops by failing to act on intelligence reports.
“Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any consequences in Russia for this heinous violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his shameful campaign of deference and degradation to Vladimir Putin,” Biden said.
“His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond nothing. It is a betrayal of the most sacred duty we have as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them in danger. “
A Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered cash to Taliban-linked militants for successful attacks on coalition forces in the fall of 2019, as the United States and the Taliban engaged in talks to end a decades-long war, according to intelligence assessments widely reported by the United States.
Reward money was believed to have been raised.Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019.
But the White House press secretary, the director of national intelligence (DNI) and now the president himself denied over the weekend that news of a secret plot of murders paid by Russia against US troops has reached the inner circle from Trump.
“I have confirmed that neither the president nor the vice president was informed of any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its report yesterday,” intelligence director John Ratcliffe said in a statement Saturday. “The White House statement on this issue earlier today, which denied that such information was produced, was accurate.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday that it was “totally outrageous” that Trump did not act on intelligence reports to defend the lives of Americans.
“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians in this regard,” Pelosi said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement on Saturday denying that Trump has been informed but saying “this does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence.”
The White House has not explained why the President would not be informed of a plot to kill US soldiers deployed abroad.
“Either the DNI is lying (which is a massive problem) or the DNI withheld revolutionary information from President Trump because it is so childish and irrelevant that they prefer not to know it (which is … well … also a massive problem)” . Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, tweeted.
Former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, who served the Trump administration, suggested Sunday that the reports on the intelligence assessment were wrong.
“No one would be fine with this if it were true,” Grenell tweeted.
Both the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Taliban issued statements denying the plot.
“This unsophisticated plant clearly illustrates the low intellectual capacities of the American intelligence propagandists, who instead of inventing something more plausible have to invent this nonsense,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.
A Taliban spokesman said the militants “firmly reject this accusation and are not indebted to the beneficence of any foreign intelligence agency or country.”
Trump has publicly undermined U.S. intelligence assessments of Russia in the past. In an appearance in July 2018 in Helsinki, Finland, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump backed Putin’s refusal of the United States’ findings that Russia had disrupted the 2016 presidential election.
“They said they think it is Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia, “Trump told reporters.” I will say this: I do not see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that the president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. “
A report by special counsel Robert Mueller released in March 2019 documented extensive contacts between Russian intelligence and Trump campaign officials, but “did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its electoral interference activities.”
The report documented 10 cases of possible obstruction of justice by Trump personally in investigations that directly or indirectly involve his campaign ties to Russia.