U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Russia’s foreign minister about alleged bounty payments to Taliban militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to The New York Times.
The Times reported Friday that Pompeo made the warning to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a July 13 phone call, citing unidentified U.S. officials.
It said Pompeo’s warning was the first known rebuke from a senior U.S. official to Russia over the alleged bounties program.
Pompeo has previous declined to say whether he specifically raised the bounty allegations with Russia. However, he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month that he has “raised all of the issues that put any Americans at risk” each time he has spoken to Lavrov.
Trump has called the reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops “another Russian hoax" despite concerns about them from the intelligence community.
Trump told reporters in Florida last month, “It was never brought to my attention and it perhaps wasn't brought because they didn't consider it to be real. And if it is brought to my attention, I'll do something about it," he said.
During an interview with “Axios on HBO,” Trump said he had not raised the bounty allegations in a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir 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.
White House officials have said that Trump was not briefed on the suspected bounties because the assessment was not conclusive. However, several media outlets, including the Times, have reported that the issue was included in one of the president’s written daily briefings in February. Trump has said he was never personally told about the issue.
Russia has denied that it paid bounties to Taliban militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.