Trump says he never raised Taliban bounties in talks with Putin

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou

President Donald Trump says he “never discussed” reports that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite having numerous phone calls as recently as last week.

“I have never discussed it with him,” Trump told Axios in a video clip posted on Twitter Wednesday. Trump said he didn’t raise the matter in last Thursday’s discussion. “That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news.”

The interview immediately prompted a response from the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“The most critical and sacred obligation of a commander-in-chief is to protect those who serve our nation in harm’s way. But months after the U.S. intelligence community sounded the alarm – to Donald Trump and to our allies – that Russia was placing bounties on the heads of American servicemen and women in a war zone, our president continues to turn his back on those who put their lives on the line for our country, and on his own duty,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Axios reported that Trump and Putin have spoken at least eight times since the intelligence community submitted information about the alleged Russian bounties reportedly in the president’s daily brief in February.

Trump said in the interview that evidence about the Russia bounties “never reached my desk” and the White House has maintained the intelligence was inconclusive since the New York Times reported on it in June.

Speaking Wednesday as he left the White House, Trump said: “If it were true I’d be very angry about it. But if you look at Russia, Russia became Russia from the Soviet Union because of Afghanistan. They lost a fortune and a lot of people. So I don’t know why they’d be doing it but if you told me they are doing it, I will certainly take that under consideration.”