- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2020

President Trump said in a new interview that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin never discussed bounties to kill U.S. soldiers that Russia allegedly offered to the Taliban.

“I have never discussed it with him, no,” Mr. Trump told “Axios on HBO” in an interview released on Wednesday.

The president told reporters Wednesday that he didn’t raise the issue with Mr. Putin because the intelligence is disputed.

“If it were true, I’d be very angry about it. I would respond appropriately,” Mr. Trump said. “[Retired Gen. and former Secretary of State] Colin Powell says it’s not true. Other people say it’s not true. I don’t know why they [Russia] would be doing it. But if you tell me they’re doing it, I will certainly take that under consideration. Nobody has been tougher on Russia.”

Earlier in the week, Mr. Trump declined to specify what he and Mr. Putin discussed in a recent phone call.

He said in the interview that many people believe the bounty issue is “fake news” and that the intelligence on the matter never reached his desk.

“You know why? Because they didn’t think — intelligence — they didn’t think it was real,” he said. “They didn’t think it was worthy. If it reached my desk, I would have done something about it. It never reached my desk.”

Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said earlier this month that the intelligence case was proven enough to worry him, but not necessarily proven enough “that I’d take it to a court of law.”

In response to the bounty reports, congressional Democrats are pushing legislation that would require the director of National Intelligence to brief Congress if the DNI determines with at least moderate confidence that a foreign government is purposely trying to kill U.S. service members.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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