Trump Confirms He’s Never Spoken To Putin About Bounties On U.S. Soldiers, Claims He Reads Intelligence Briefs
President Donald Trump has never spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the U.S. intelligence suggesting Russia paid bounties to Taliban insurgents who killed American military troops, he confirmed in an Axios on HBO interview Tuesday.
Previous reports suggested Trump had not broached the topic in his most recent call with Putin, as no mention of bounties was made in a rough transcript of the call. However, Trump was clear with Axios, telling them “I have never discussed it with him.”
“That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” he added in the interview, which is scheduled to air Aug. 3 at 11 p.m. ET/PT.
The New York Times first reported on the bounties in late June, writing that Russia offered up to $100,000 for the killing of U.S. troops. The article also claimed that Trump had known about the matter since February but did nothing about it.
The revelations led to some speculation that Trump does not read his President’s Daily Brief, where the information was provided to him. He denied these allegations, and the White House said he had not been briefed because the intelligence was inconclusive – with the CIA believing Russia offered bounties, and the NSA reportedly disagreeing.
Trump said during the interview Tuesday that he does read his PDB.
“They like to say I don’t read, I read a lot,” but said the information “never reached my desk” because U.S. intelligence “didn’t think it was real.”
Trump also said he was unaware of any reports of Russia aiding the Taliban, after being asked about Gen. John Nicholson‘s comments in 2018 that Russia was providing money and arms to the group, saying “we know that the Russians are involved.”
The president said he had not heard of the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan’s remarks, and that such evidence “never reached my desk.”