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Trump denies briefing on reported bounties against U.S. troops in Afghanistan

U.S. President Donald Trump has denied that he had been briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Biden says report, if true, a 'shocking revelation'

U.S. President Donald Trump has denied receiving a briefing about intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit had tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops, as The New York Times reported. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday denied that he had been briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, and he appeared to minimize the allegations against Moscow.

U.S. intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian officials offered rewards for successful attacks on American service members last year, at a time when the U.S. and Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running war, according to The New York Times.

Trump, in a Sunday morning tweet, said, "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."

"Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us," he said.

The White House had issued a statement on Saturday denying that Trump or Pence had been briefed on such intelligence. "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," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

Trump's director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, also said neither the president nor vice-president was "ever briefed on any intelligence alleged" in the Times' report, and he said the White House statement was "accurate."

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden labelled as a 'truly shocking revelation' a media report saying American intelligence officials concluded months ago that there were bounties offered to Taliban militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. (Biden for President/The Associated Press)

Trump's tweet came a day after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the report, if accurate, was a "truly shocking revelation" about the commander-in-chief and his failure to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and stand up to Russia.

Russia called the report "nonsense."

"Propagandists of American intelligence'

"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," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

A Taliban spokesperson said the militants "strongly reject this allegation" and are not "indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence organ or foreign country."

The Times, citing unnamed officials familiar with the intelligence, said the findings were presented to 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 authorize any step, the report said.

Trump responded to Biden on Twitter, saying "Russia ate his and Obama's lunch during their time in office"

But it was the Obama administration, along with international allies, that suspended Russia from the Group of Eight after its unilateral annexation of Crimea from Ukraine — a move that drew widespread condemnation.

Biden criticized Trump for "his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself" before Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump tweeted that "Nobody's been tougher" on Russia than his administration.

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