President Donald Trump said Wednesday he did not speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin about intelligence claiming Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban for American soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Trump noted the intelligence about Russian bounties, first revealed by the New York Times, was disputed by American intelligence agencies, and said he did not bring it up with Putin.
“That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” Trump said to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan in an exclusive interview released on Wednesday.
Trump said he had “never discussed” the story with Putin.
“It never reached my desk,” Trump said. “You know why? Because they didn’t think it was real, they didn’t think it was worthy.”
Trump also pointed to others who questioned the validity of the story.
“If you look at some of the wonderful folks from the Bush administration, some of them not any friends of mine, were saying it was a fake issue,” Trump said.
Democrats seized on the story as evidence that the president as proof that he continues to sell out the United States to Russia.
Former Vice President Joe Biden called Trump’s handling of the intelligence a “dereliction of duty.”
“The idea that somehow he didn’t know or isn’t being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty,” Biden said. “If that’s the case, and if he was briefed and nothing was done about this, that’s a dereliction of duty.”
The White House disputed the intelligence, saying it had not been verified and that there was no consensus from the intelligence community about the information. They also said that the intelligence had not made its way to the president’s desk.