Donald Trump denies he was briefed on Russia 'bounty' intelligence

28 June 2020, 17:38

The White House said neither Mr Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence were briefed on such intelligence
The White House said neither Mr Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence were briefed on such intelligence. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Donald Trump has denied he was briefed by intelligence officials about Russia allegedly bribing Taliban fighters to kill US and allied troops in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported on Friday that American intelligence officials concluded months ago that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing US troops in Afghanistan.

The report said the Russians offered rewards for successful attacks last year, at a time when Washington and Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running war.

During a virtual town hall, Mr Biden said: "The truly shocking revelation that if the Times report is true, and I emphasise that again, is that President Trump, the commander-in-chief of American troops serving in a dangerous theatre of war, has known about this for months, according to the Times, and done worse than nothing."

The White House said neither Mr Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence were briefed on such intelligence.

Joe Biden hit out at Trump during a virtual town hall meeting
Joe Biden hit out at Trump during a virtual town hall meeting. Picture: PA

The US President tweeted that "there have not been many attacks" on US troops by Taliban fighters as evidence that the reported intelligence wasn't true.

In a statement released Saturday evening, which came after Mr Biden's comments, 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 Adviser, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence."

Russia's foreign ministry has called the report "nonsense".

The New York Times quoted a Taliban spokesman denying that its militants have a deal with the Russian intelligence agency over bounties.

The newspaper, citing unnamed officials familiar with the intelligence, said the findings were presented to Mr Trump and discussed by his National Security Council in late March.

Officials developed potential responses, starting with a diplomatic complaint to Russia, but the White House has yet to authorise any step, the newspaper reported.

Mr Biden slammed his likely opponent in November over his reported failure to act.

"Not only has he failed to sanction and 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," the former vice president said.

Mr Biden called it a "betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation - to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm's way".

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