On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump used Twitter to claim that reports that Russia put bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan were “just a hoax” created to hurt him politically.
“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party,” Trump tweeted. Early Wednesday. “The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!”
This is not the first time Trump has tried to label something a hoax to try and divert attention from his actions. He used the “hoax” excuse during Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.
He also claimed that the coronavirus was a hoax created by Democrats. Trump’s failure to respond to the COVID-19 when it first reached America came at the cost of American lives.
In a second tweet on Wednesday morning, Trump went on to claim he was never briefed by intelligence officials about the bounties, “because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level.”
The Trump administration is now facing major pressure from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers demanding answers to the situation. The bounty story was first reported by the New York Times on Friday. The Times reported that the intelligence community had concluded several months ago that a Russian intelligence unit had offered cash bounties to Taliban-linked insurgents who execute successful attacks against coalition forces, including American troops based in Afghanistan.
The White House has defended Trump’s stand and states that he was not briefed on the situation, however, White House officials continue to sidestep questions about the information being included in one of Trump’s earlier briefs from February.
Trump is the only individual within the White House that has dismissed the credibility of the intelligence.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump has since been briefed on the information, and maintains that there is no “consensus” within the intelligence community on the intelligence and that it remains unverified.
“The president has been briefed on what is unfortunately in the public domain because of The New York Times,” McEnany said. “But that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that still has yet to be verified.”
On Monday night, Robert O’Brien, the White House national security adviser released a statement saying that Trump had not been briefed on the intelligence prior to the Times article because it had not been “verified or substantiated” by the intelligence community. He did add that administration official “have been preparing should the situation warrant action.”
House Majority leader Steny Hoyer spoke to reporters on Tuesday and rejected Trump’s claims that the situation was a “hoax.”
“The president called this a hoax publicly. Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax,” Hoyer said.
Several Republicans continue to push for more information from the administration after expressing their concerns about the situation.
“After today’s briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces,” House Armed Services ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) shared on Monday.
“We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russia or any other country targeting our forces. Congress has no more important obligation than providing for the security of our nation and ensuring our forces have the resources they need. We anticipate further briefings on this issue in the coming days,” they concluded.