Trump claims intelligence didn't believe Russia offered bounties to kill US troops, calls report a 'hoax'
As pressure mounts on him and his administration, President Donald Trump on Wednesday, July 1, said that many in the intelligence community were not convinced about the revealing report that Russia was paying Taliban militants to slay American troops deployed in Afghanistan. On June 26, a bombshell report by The New York Times sparked controversy in America’s political and social circle with the president being accused of doing nothing against Russia despite knowing its sinister design. Trump has tried to defend himself saying he was never briefed on the matter but close sources revealed that he was.
Trump calls report 'hoax'
On Wednesday, Trump reiterated his stand saying the matter never reached him and even called the report a “hoax." He said the intelligence itself never found the issue “to be of that level." In an interview with Fox Business, the president said: “We never heard about it because intelligence never found it to be of that level, where it would rise to that. When you bring something into a president and I see many, many things and I'm sure I don't see many things that they don't think rose to the occasion. This didn't rise to the occasion.”
“From what I hear, and I hear it pretty good, the intelligence people didn't even - many of them didn't believe it happened at all. I think it's a hoax. I think it's a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats," he added.
The White House has struggled to convince critics over its response to the report and stuck to the viewpoint that the commander-in-chief was never informed about the matter. The White House has struggled to do damage control and contain the fallout from Friday's report in The New York Times on the allegation against Russia. The administration has focused its counterattack on the argument that Trump was never briefed on the matter. On Monday, June 29, The Washington Post came up with a report which cited sources to say the intelligence that several American service members believed to have died in Afghanistan after the Russians paid bounties to the Taliban saw a high-level meeting happening in the White House in late March. The restricted meeting saw discussions about possible responses to Russia’s moves, ranging from diplomatic warnings to sanctions.
The same day, The NYT cited two unnamed officials to say the intelligence assessment on Afghanistan featured in Trump’s Daily Brief report in late February, a report which found backings from CNN and Associated Press. It has also been reported that Trump largely ignores his daily brief and banks more on oral briefings by intelligence officials only a few times a week. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany later defended the president saying not only the intelligence community lacked consensus on the Afghanistan issue but also certified the latter as the “most informed person on planet earth when it comes to threats that we face”.
Trump, however, refused to say what response he would come up with if the report was true. “If it did happen, the Russians would hear about it. And anybody else would hear about it that was involved,” he said. Trump, who invited Russia to join back the G7 recently, often brags about his handling of Moscow, saying no president has been tougher than him on that country. The president made a surprise visit to Afghanistan last Thanksgiving when he spent a few hours with the US troops and served them turkey.