Washington – President Trump revealed that during a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he did not raise the reportin connection with a Russian military spy unit offering gifts 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 in an interview Tuesday, adding, “I never discussed it with him.”
The president said the reported Russian operation was “an issue that many people said was fake news” and pointed to “some of the wonderful people from the Bush administration”; as intelligence suspects. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday, Mr. Trump referred to former Secretary of State Colin Powell as one who casts doubt on intelligence. Powell told MSNBC earlier this month “our military commanders on the ground did not think it was as serious a problem as newspapers reported and television reported.”
“She got a check out before we realized what had happened,” Powell said. “I’m not sure we fully understand it now.”
Mr Trump and Mr Putin spoke by telephone July 23 and the president told “Axios on HBO” they discussed nuclear proliferation. A reading of the call distributed by the White House said the two world leaders also spoke about the coronavirus pandemic, as well as “critical bilateral and global issues.” The White House said Mr. Trump “reiterated his hope to avoid an expensive three-pronged arms race between China, Russia and the United States.”
The president’s acceptance comes after he refused to share whether he discussed the Russian scheme with Putin when asked about the call Monday. Mr Trump told reporters during a trip to Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnology in North Carolina that “we are not talking about what we discussed” but called the conversation with the Russian president “very productive”.
Press reports on Russians offering pay to Taliban-linked soldiers for killing US troops in Afghanistan first began in late June and sparked questions from Capitol Hill about whether Mr. Trump knew about intelligence about the effort.
But senior national security and intelligence officials in the Trump administration, including National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, said neither the president nor the vice president had been briefed on Russian intelligence because it had not been verified. from the intelligence community. However, the New York Times and Associated Press reported that the information was included in Mr. Trump’s written intelligence reports.
Mr. Trump reiterated to Axios that intelligence “never reached my desk” because of questions about its veracity, and said if it had, “I would have done something about it.”
When asked if he reads his conference book, known as the President’s Daily Brief, the president said he “reads a lot” and attends in-person intelligence conferences at least twice a week.