US President Donald Trump has said intelligence about a Russian plot to offer bounties to Taliban militants in exchange for fatal attacks on US troops in Afghanistan was not “credible” and was therefore not reported to him.
Trump gave the explanation in a tweet on Sunday night, and dismissed the widely reported allegations as “possibly another fabricated Russia hoax”.
Trump has come under pressure to explain why he had not heard about the Russia offer even though US security officials have been weighing a response to the plot since at least March.
Top administration officials, including members of Trump’s national security council, have been discussing the Russian bounty offer for months, the New York Times first reported.
Earlier on Sunday, Trump claimed never to have heard about the Russian offer – and he questioned whether such an offer had been made.
“Nobody briefed or told me, [vice president Mike] Pence, or chief of staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians,” Trump tweeted in part. “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us …”
Meadows took over as chief of staff at the end of March, after the national security council, which includes top advisers to the president with offices inside 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, accused Trump in a virtual town hall on Saturday of betraying US troops by failing to act on the intelligence reports.
“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.
“His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale. It’s 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.”