- President Donald Trump said he did not raise the issue of Russia paying the Taliban to kill US troops with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- “I have never discussed it with him,” Trump said in an interview with Axios.
- He said a call last week with Putin was “to discuss other things” and that the payments are “an issue that many people said was fake news.”
- Trump has dismissed reports on US intelligence findings about the payments as not credible, though two current Taliban commanders and one former commander confirmed the practice to Insider in July.
- Trump has also denied reports that the he was briefed on the intelligence findings, though former spies and intelligence officials say this is hard to believe.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump said he did not raise confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia paying the Taliban to kill US troops, suggesting instead that the practice is “fake news.”
In an interview on “Axios on HBO”on Tuesday, Trump was asked if he raised the issue with Putin. He replied: “I have never discussed it with him.”
Asked why he didn’t mention it on a call with Putin on Thursday, he said: “That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news.”
US intelligence officials concluded earlier this year that Russia’s military intelligence agency did indeed pay Taliban-linked militants to kill NATO troops in Afghanistan, including US forces. Their findings were first reported by The New York Times in June.
Two current Taliban commanders and one former commander confirmed the practice to Insider in July.
The Times reported that the intelligence about the Taliban payments was included in Trump’s daily intelligence briefing in February, and that it was discussed at March’s White House’s National Security Council meeting.
Trump has been known to avoid reading those briefings.
He has repeatedly said that he was not briefed about the issue, and has argued that the credibility of the intelligence underlying the practice is questionable.
In a June 29 tweet, Trump said: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!,” he wrote.
Former spies and intelligence officials have said they can’t believe that Trump would not be briefed on such a topic.
Steve Hall, the former chief of Russia operations at the CIA, told Insider that the White House’s claim is “horses—.”
He said intelligence dealing with threats against Americans is treated very differently from other types of sensitive intelligence.
“Ever since 9/11, any time you get any type of counterterrorism or threat reporting that speaks to whether Americans are going to get killed, that sort of information travels extremely quickly and doesn’t have to be vetted,” Hall said.
“And that’s all right because the outcome could be horrific. You could have Americans killed.”
The Pentagon said in a June statement that it “has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”
The White House declined to comment to Insider last week when asked about whether Trump raised the intelligence with Putin in the Thursday call.
It said it would not add to the official readout of the call, which made no mention of the bounties, though Trump chose to go further while speaking to Axios.
According to Axios, Trump and Putin have spoken at least eight times since February, when the Times reported that the intelligence about the Taliban payments were first included in Trump’s briefing.