President Donald Trump said he never heard about intelligence indicating Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan because many in the intelligence community doubted the evidence and he called the issue a “hoax” by his adversaries.
“This was something that never got presented to me — and they know that — never got presented because it didn’t rise to that level,” Trump said Wednesday in an interview with Fox Business Network. “From what I hear, and I hear it pretty good, the intelligence people, many of them, didn’t believe it happened at all. I think it’s a hoax. I think it’s a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats.”
He added, however, that there would be consequences for Russia if it were true. “And if it did happen, the Russians would hear about it,” Trump said
The comments were Trump’s first public remarks on the issue. The president earlier tweeted that an intelligence official he didn’t name told him the bounty allegations weren’t credible — even though White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Monday that there’s no consensus on their veracity.
Lawmakers from both parties demanded the administration hold Russia accountable if there is evidence that the bounty offers occurred.
Trump’s reluctance to confront Russia has spawned lingering fears among U.S. lawmakers and allies overseas that Trump prefers to remain willfully ignorant when it comes to allegations of President Vladimir Putin’s plotting against the U.S.
“I think frankly that many of the intelligence people didn’t think it was something that even happened,” Trump said.
His administration has criticized news organizations for reporting that he’d been given written information about the bounty allegations.
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