American intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian officials offered Taliban-linked militants rewards for successful attacks on American service members last year.
US President Donald Trump has said he was never briefed about Russian efforts to pay bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill US troops in Afghanistan, blasting a New York Times report that he had been told about the rewards but had not acted to respond to Moscow.
The White House on Saturday also denied that Trump was briefed on US intelligence regarding the affair but it did not address the merits of the intelligence.
On Monday, Russia rejected the media reports as "lies".
Trump's director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, also said neither the president nor vice president was “ever briefed on any intelligence alleged” in The Times' report and he said the White House statement was “accurate.”
"Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an 'anonymous source' by the Fake News @nytimes. Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us," Trump tweeted, calling on the newspaper to reveal its source.
Trump tweeted that “Nobody's been tougher” on Russia than his administration.
...Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration. With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine - Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their “source”?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2020
The Kremlin on Monday rejected the media reports as "lies".
Asked about the reports on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said media outlets should take heed of Trump's comments.
He said that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had never discussed the allegations.
Bounty on American soldiers
The Times reported that US intelligence had concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit linked to assassination attempts in Europe had offered rewards for successful attacks last year on American and coalition soldiers and that militants or those associated with them were believed to have collected some bounty money.
This was at a time when the US and Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running war. Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed the report.
Democrats said the report and Trump's denial were the latest evidence of the president’s wish to ignore allegations against Russia and accommodate President Vladimir Putin.
"There is something very wrong here. But this must have an answer," US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC's “This Week” programme.
“You would think, the minute the president heard of it, he would want to know more, instead of denying that he knew anything,” she said, adding that Trump has already given "gifts" to Putin by diminishing US leadership in NATO, reducing US forces in Germany and inviting Russia back into the G8.