Bolton: Trump’s claims he didn’t know Russia put a bounty on US troops is ‘unconnected to reality’

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John Bolton claimed Sunday morning that Donald Trump denying a report claiming he knew Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops is ‘unconnected to the reality,’ but asserts this is the standard for the president. 

‘There’s a lot we don’t know so we should be cautious, but from what we do know from the president’s own tweets this morning, to me it looks like just another day at the office in the Trump White House,’ Bolton told NBC News’ Meet the Press.

The former national security adviser is on a media tour promoting his new book, ‘The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir,’ about his 17 months as one of Trump’s top aides.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that Trump confront the Russians, telling ABC News on Sunday that his denial of the report is ‘as bad as it gets.’

‘This is as bad as it gets and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score – denies being briefed, whether he is or not, his administration knows,’ Pelosi told This Week host George Stephenopoulos. ‘Some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan have been briefed and accept this report.’

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed Sunday that Donald Trump denying the report that he knew Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops is ‘just another day at the office in the Trump White House’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said Sunday that Trump's denial is 'as bad as it gets'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said Sunday that Trump’s denial is ‘as bad as it gets’

The comments came after a pair of tweets Sunday where the president claimed the Times report was fake, and said he was not briefed on the situation in March, like it details

The comments came after a pair of tweets Sunday where the president claimed the Times report was fake, and said he was not briefed on the situation in March, like it details

The California Democrat also said that allies she and her colleagues have worked with in Afghanistan were briefed and accept The New York Times report.

‘Just as I’ve said to the president, with him all roads lead to Putin,’ Pelosi told This Week host George Stephenopoulos. ‘I don’t know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally, financially or whatever it is.’

Bolton said that if the reports are true, the U.S. should ‘consider a number of strong measures against Russia.’ 

Trump insisted in a sunday morning tweet that ‘nobody told him’ that Russia had reportedly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants if they killed U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

In a series of tweets Sunday morning, the president scathed: ‘Nobody briefed or told me, VP Pence, or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source’ by the Fake News New York Times.’

‘Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us…..’ Trump continued.

The president’s comments follow a report from the Times that he was briefed in March about the apparent Moscow led murder-for-hire plot, but has yet failed to take action against it.

Bolton admitted to CNN’s Jake Tapper that while he doesn’t know about this specific situation detailed in the report, it sounded to him like an effort form the president to shift the responsibility away from himself.

‘What would motivate the president to do that? Because it looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans and we’re not doing anything about it,’ Bolton said. ‘So what is the presidential reaction, is to say, ‘it’s not my responsibility, nobody told me about it.’ And therefore to duck any complaints that he hasn’t acted effectively.’

‘This is part of the problem with President Trump’s decision making in the national security space, it’s just unconnected to the reality he’s dealing with, it’s about his personal position,’ Bolton told the State of the Union host.

The president demanded the Times out the source from whom the newspaper obtained the information – claiming otherwise, it’s likely the source was made up.

‘The Fake News @ nytimes must reveal its ‘anonymous’ source,’ the president asserted. ‘Bet they can’t do it, this ‘person’ probably does not even exist!’

In a rebuke of the claims made in the report, Trump affirmed that ‘nobody has been tougher on Russia’ than his administration, continuing that ‘with Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine.

‘Where’s Hunter?’ the president asked. ‘Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their ‘source’?’

In rebuke, Trump affirmed that 'nobody has been tougher on Russia' than his administration, continuing that 'with Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine

In rebuke, Trump affirmed that ‘nobody has been tougher on Russia’ than his administration, continuing that ‘with Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine 

On Saturday, Democratic nominee Joe Biden accused Trump of betraying American families. He called the revelation of alleged inaction on the part of Trump ‘shocking’ as he claimed that Trump’s ‘entire presidency has been a gift to Putin’.

In response, in another tweet Sunday morning, the president mused how it was ‘funny’ to hear Biden’s admonishment which was ‘obviously written by his handlers’. 

‘Russia ate his and Obama’s lunch during their time in office, so badly that Obama wanted them out of the then G-8. U.S. was weak on everything, but especially Russia!’ Trump continued.

Biden’s criticism came just before the White House vehemently denied that Trump had been briefed on the intelligence, as was reported in the New York Times Friday.  

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany fiercely refuted that the president had known of the plot for months, stating that ‘neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence’.

But she added: ‘This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of The New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter.’ 

That left open the possibility such intelligence does exist.

‘The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day and they are subject to strict scrutiny,’ said McEnany’s statement.

‘While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.’

Biden, however, took the opportunity to blast Trump on the report as he spoke at a town hall on Saturday afternoon.   

He said that, if true, it contains a ‘truly shocking revelation’ about the commander in chief and his failure to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and stand up to Russia.  

Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump of betraying American families Saturday after a New York Times report claimed the president had for months failed to act on intelligence of Russian bounties offered to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump of betraying American families Saturday after a New York Times report claimed the president had for months failed to act on intelligence of Russian bounties offered to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany fiercely denied the president had known of the intelligence but did not say that there was no merit to the report of Russian bounties to Taliban forces

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany fiercely denied the president had known of the intelligence but did not say that there was no merit to the report of Russian bounties to Taliban forces

McEnany said Vice President Mike Pence, pictured, had also not been briefed in March

McEnany said Vice President Mike Pence, pictured, had also not been briefed in March

‘The truly shocking revelation that if the Times report is true, and I emphasize that again, is that President Trump, the commander in chief of American troops serving in a dangerous theater of war, has known about this for months, according to the Times, and done worse than nothing,’ Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said during the virtual town hall. 

‘Not only has he failed to sanction and impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin,’ the former vice president added.

‘He has had this information, according to the Times, and yet he offered to host Putin in the United States and sought to invite Russia to rejoin the G7.’ 

Biden called it a ‘betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation – to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way’.

He said Americans who serve in the military put their life on the line. 

‘I think about this as a Dad, a father who sent his son to serve in harm’s way for a year in the Middle East and in Iraq and I’m disgusted on behalf of those families whose loved ones are serving today,’ Biden said. 

‘When your child volunteers to serve they’re putting their life on the line for the country. They take risks known and unknown for this nation but they should never, never, never ever face a threat like this with their commander in chief turning a blind eye to a foreign power putting a bounty on their heads.

‘I’m quite frankly outraged by the report,’ Biden continued 

He promised that if he is elected, ‘Putin will be confronted and we´ll impose serious costs on Russia.’

Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden blasted the president Saturday over his potential inaction

 Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden blasted the president Saturday over his potential inaction

Trump allegedly knew in March of intelligence that reportedly showed Russia had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants if they killed U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

Trump allegedly knew in March of intelligence that reportedly showed Russia had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants if they killed U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

The New York Times reported Friday that American intelligence officials concluded months ago that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. 

The report said the Russians offered rewards for successful attacks last year, at a time when the U.S. and Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running war. 

Twenty Americans were killed last year in the bloody Afghan war, which began in 2001, but it was not clear if any of these deaths were under suspicion. 

According to the paper, U.S. policy members developed a ‘menu’ of options, from a diplomatic slap to further increases in U.S. sanctions or other unnamed responses. 

But officials said the White House has taken no response to date and no explanation for the delay was given. 

The information was reportedly kept a closely guarded secret until the administration began expanding briefings this week. 

They also shared intelligence with the British government whose troops are said to be among those targeted. 

The news hit the Trump Administration as it was already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and as Trump hoped that a peace deal with the Taliban would end the Afghanistan War in the last few months of his re-election campaign.  

Trump is currently withdrawing troops, meeting one of the militants’ key demands as he attempts to end America’s longest war. 

The Taliban have denied the report, reiterating that it was committed to an accord signed with Washington in February that paves the way for withdrawing all foreign forces from Afghanistan by next year.

The militants also said homemade explosives account for most fatalities among US forces.

‘The nineteen-year jihad of the Islamic Emirate is not indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence organ or foreign country,’ the Taliban said in a statement issued in Kabul.

The Taliban said home-made explosives accounted for most of the casualties among US forces

The Taliban said home-made explosives accounted for most of the casualties among US forces

It came as Trump hoped that a peace deal with the Taliban would end the Afghanistan War in the last few months of his re-election campaign. Pictured Afghan Taliban fighters and villagers celebrate the peace deal signed between U.S. and Taliban in February

It came as Trump hoped that a peace deal with the Taliban would end the Afghanistan War in the last few months of his re-election campaign. Pictured Afghan Taliban fighters and villagers celebrate the peace deal signed between U.S. and Taliban in February

The group, widely believed to have received years of support from Pakistani intelligence, also denied previous US accusations it was given arms by Russia.

‘The Islamic Emirate has made use of weapons, facilities and tools … that were already present in Afghanistan or are war spoils frequently seized from the opposition in battles,’ it said.

Russia has also denounced the report, with its embassy in Washington tweeting that the ‘baseless and anonymous accusations’ in the Times story had ‘already led to direct threats to the life of employees’ at its embassies in Washington and London.

‘Stop producing #fakenews that provoke life threats, @nytimes,’ it added in a later tweet. 

Russia has a tortured history in Afghanistan, where the former Soviet Union in its final years was bogged down in a devastating fight against Islamist guerrillas, then backed by Washington.

The Russian embassy in the United States fiercely denied the allegations in a Twitter thread on Friday night

The Russian embassy in the United States fiercely denied the allegations in a Twitter thread on Friday night

The U.S. has already sanctioned Russia following the country's interference in the U.S. elections, which prosecutors connected to President Vladimir Putin. The Trump administration took no action to retaliate for the bounties, according to the report

The U.S. has already sanctioned Russia following the country’s interference in the U.S. elections, which prosecutors connected to President Vladimir Putin. The Trump administration took no action to retaliate for the bounties, according to the report

The New York Times said there were different theories on why Russia would support Taliban attacks, including a desire to keep Washington bogged down in war.

It said that the Russian unit may also be seeking revenge over the US killing of Russian mercenaries in Syria, where Moscow backs President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the newspaper, the Taliban operation was led by a unit known as the G.R.U., which has been blamed in numerous international incidents including a 2018 chemical weapons attack in Britain that nearly killed Russian-born double agent Sergei Skripal.

In recent years, the unit has been linked to assassination attempts or revenge plots aimed at destabilizing the West. 

Yet it would be the first time that it was known to have initiated attacks on Western troops, a major escalation of force against the U.S. 

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