Washington – President Trump reveals that he did not raise the news during a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putinabout a Russian military spy unit offering rewards to Taliban-linked militants to kill US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
“No, it was a phone call to discuss other things,” Mr. Trump told Axios on HBO on Tuesday, adding, “I’ve never talked to him about it.”
The president said the alleged Russian operation was “an issue that many said was false news” and said that “some of the amazing people in the Bush administration”; question intelligence. In an interview with reporters at the White House on Wednesday, Mr Trump named former Secretary of State Colin Powell as the person who questioned the intelligence. Earlier this month, Powell said, “Our military commanders on earth did not think it was as serious a problem as newspapers and television reported.”
“It was a little out of control before we really understood what had happened,” Powell said. “I’m not sure we fully understand that now.”
Trump and Putin spoke on July 23, and the president said Axios on HBO was discussing nuclear proliferation. An evaluation of the call distributed by the White House said two world leaders also spoke of the coronavirus pandemic as well as “critical bilateral and global issues.” The White House said Mr Trump “reiterated his hope of avoiding an expensive three-way arms race between China, Russia and the United States.”
The president’s confession comes after he refused to divulge whether he had discussed a Russian scheme with Putin when asked to challenge him on Monday. Mr Trump told reporters during a trip to Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in North Carolina that he was “not talking about what we were discussing,” but called the interview with the Russian president “very productive.”
Press reports about Russians offering cash payments to Taliban-linked troops for killing US troops in Afghanistan first appeared in late June, raising questions from Capitol Hill as to whether Mr. Trump knew about the intelligence about the effort.
However, top officials of the Trump administration’s state security and intelligence services, including national security adviser Robert O’Brien and national intelligence director John Ratcliffe, said the president and vice president were unaware of Russia’s remuneration because it had not been verified by the intelligence community. However, the New York Times and the Associated Press reported that the information was included in Mr. Trump’s written briefings.
Trump repeated to Axios that intelligence “never reached my desk” because of questions about its truthfulness, and said that if it had, “I would do something about it.”
Asked if he reads his briefing book, known as the President’s Daily Briefing, the President said he “reads a lot” and participates in personal intelligence at least twice a week.