Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured lawmakers on Thursday that the Trump administration has confronted top Russian diplomats and military officers about the alleged bounties Russia has offered Taliban-linked rebels to kill American troops in Afghanistan — even though Donald Trump has refused to bring the topic up with his counterpart Vladimir Putin.
“I can assure you and the American people that each time I’ve spoken with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, I have raised all of the issues that put any American interests at risk, whether it’s our soldiers on the ground in Syria, soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, the activities that are taking place in Libya, the actions in Ukraine,” Mr Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Each and every one of these [issues] that potentially threaten American interests are things that I raise in my conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and I speak with him with some frequency,” he said.Mr Trump said earlier this week he has “never discussed” reports of alleged Russian bounties on US troops in Afghanistan with Vladimir Putin, despite having reportedly spoken with the Russian president on at least eight occasions since the intelligence was reportedly included in his daily briefing.
In February, the president’s daily written brief included an intelligence report that Russia may have been placing bounties on the heads of US troops, with payments of up to $100,000, the New York Times has reported.
When Axios asked Mr Trump this week whether he had raised the issue in his most recent phone call with Mr Putin, he said he had not. “That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly, that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” Mr Trump said.