US President Donald Trump has denied he was briefed on reported US intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties for killing American troops in Afghanistan.
American intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian officials had secretly offered the incentives to Taliban-linked militants last year, according to the New York Times.
A senior administration official said the White House planned to brief select members of Congress on the subject on Monday.
Tweeting on Sunday morning, President Trump said that “nobody briefed or told me” or Vice President Mike Pence or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about “the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians”.
He added: “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us.”
On Saturday, the White House released a statement denying Mr Trump or Mr Pence had been made aware of the reported intelligence.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said: “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter.”
US Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, said neither the President nor Vice President was “ever briefed on any intelligence alleged” in the newspaper’s report and said the White House statement was “accurate”.
On Saturday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the report, if accurate, was a “truly shocking revelation” about the president and his failure to protect American personnel deployed to Afghanistan and stand up to Russia.
Russia described the report as “nonsense” and its foreign ministry said: “This unsophisticated plant clearly illustrates the low intellectual abilities of the propagandists of American intelligence, who instead of inventing something more plausible have to make up this nonsense.”
A spokesman from the Taliban said the militants “strongly reject this allegation” and are not “indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence organ or foreign country".
Former national security adviser John Bolton, who was forced out by the President in September, has since written a book about his time in the White House.
He said: “It is pretty remarkable the president’s going out of his way to say he hasn’t heard anything about it, one asks, why would he do something like that?”
He added if the report is true, it may look like Mr Trump was "negligent".
The Times, citing unnamed officials familiar with the intelligence, said findings were handed to Mr Trump and discussed by his National Security Council in late March.
The report said that officials generated potential responses, beginning with a diplomatic complaint to Russia, but that the White House has yet to authorise any action.
Cover image: Library picture of US President Donald Trump (Picture: PA).