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Trump says he was never briefed on reported bounty on U.S. soldiers

President Donald Trump said he was never informed

President Donald Trump said he was never informed there was an alleged bounty on American troops. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday said he was never briefed on U.S. intelligence that indicates Russia offered Taliban soldiers cash to kill American troops serving in Afghanistan, as reported a day earlier by The New York Times and other news outlets.

Trump, in a pair of Sunday morning tweets, pushed back on reports that he was made aware of the bounty placed on U.S. and British forces by Russia prior to a National Security Council meeting in late March.

The president's stream of tweets also included his reposting of a video that showcased a Trump supporter in Florida shouting "white power" during a shouting match with anti-Trump protesters. Trump deleted the post hours later, with a White House official claiming the president did not hear the phrase at the top of the video that is often chanted by white supremacists. 

On reports of the Russian bounty, the commander-in-chief said “nobody briefed or told me,” and denied Vice President Mike Pence and his latest Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were ever informed “about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians.”

Trump called on The New York Times to reveal their “anonymous source.” The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Fox News have all published follow-up articles confirming the reporting in the Times piece.

Top national security officials formulated a list of options to respond to Russia, including imposing sanctions and demanding the Kremlin stop offering the bounty, but the White House has not yet authorized any response plans, according to the reports.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Trump’s hand-picked Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who assumed the role in May, both said Saturday that Trump was never made aware of the allegations against Russia.

McEnany in a statement did not dispute the “merit of the alleged intelligence,” but asserted that Trump was never briefed.

"The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day and they are subject to strict scrutiny,” McEnany said. “While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA Director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, speaking at a virtual campaign event on Saturday, said the White House’s inaction is “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.”

Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss his tell-all book, described Trump’s response so far as “just another day at the office in the Trump White House.”

On Sunday, Trump spent the day at his Northern Virginia golf course after firing off the tweets, including sharing a video posted by another Twitter user, that showed a supporter at a Florida senior living community yelling “white power” several times.

“Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” Trump wrote in a tweet linking to the video. “The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!!!”

Hours later, after Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the Senate's sole Black Republican urged the president to take down the post, and others denounced the tweet, it was deleted.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump “did not hear the one statement made on the video," which came within the first few seconds of the video.

“What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters,”  Deere said.

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